For thousands of years, the Native American people of Southern California drew on their understanding of the natural world to thrive. In addition, the people understood they were connected to an interacting natural system and that they had an obligation to the rest of the universe’s creatures. This rich knowledge of how nature works and how to use the resources without depleting them was a result of intense observation, patience and a sense of kinship with the natural environment.
Today, the Morongo tradition continues through the Morongo Environmental Protection Department. Today’s resource managers have much to learn from the ancient systems of the past and the Department has incorporated traditional knowledge with today’s modern technologies in order to best manage the natural resources of the Morongo Indian Reservation. Among the department programs are: Tribal Air, Tribal Water, Pollution Prevention, and Resource Conservation. The department also supports a Native American internship program for both college and high school students to gain professional work experience on a variety of environmental projects to encourage environmental careers. Regulatory Jurisdiction of tribal lands is administered by the Tribe and the Federal Government. In the case of federal environmental laws, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proclaimed “Indian policy” on November 8, 1984, stating that EPA or tribes, rather than states will implement federal environmental statutes (i.e. Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act etc.). The goal for both EPA and the Tribe is to build the Morongo Environmental Protection Department’s capacity so that the Tribe can administer sections of the federal programs, which ensure federal compliance and reinforces the Tribe’s sovereignty.
Air quality refers to the condition of the air around us; how clean it is and how many pollutants (harmful chemicals or substances) it contains. Understanding the air quality is fundamental to our health and well-being, as poor air quality can adversely affect vulnerable people with pre-existing medical conditions, the youth and older adults. It is with this understanding that Morongo’s Tribal Air Program continuously strives to provide awareness and understanding to all air quality related matters through outreach and educational activities while fostering collaborative relationships throughout Morongo’s community.
Outdoor Air Quality
One of Morongo Tribal Air Program’s (TAP) objectives is to collect legally defensible air quality data that can be used to assist the Tribe in making rational decisions, educate the community and further protect the environment. The Air Monitoring Station measures Morongo Reservation’s ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air. These are three of EPA’s six criteria pollutants; known air pollutants that cause harm to human health and the environment. The TAP also gathers meteorological data at three weather stations within the Reservation. Morongo’s Air Program has the capability to establish a mobilized monitoring station that can gather PM and weather data during emergencies or for air quality studies.
The Tribal Air Program established and helps maintain Morongo’s School Air Quality Flag Program. This program works alongside the Tribal students, who changes a colored flag to correspond to the daily air quality. These colored flags alert students, school faculty, tribal members, tribal employees and visitors when the air becomes unhealthy so they may adjust their outdoor activities or to move indoors.
Morongo Air Program also administers the Title V Operating Permit that allows the Casino’s Cogeneration Facility to be incompliance by EPA standards. This relationship allows the Tribe, not an outside agency, to monitor and report the emissions of the Cogeneration Facility so that it runs efficiently and cleanly.
Indoor Air Quality
The Tribal Air Program also strives to help the Morongo Community to breathe easier indoors. The TAP hosts several workshops throughout the year that give Tribal Members the opportunity to learn more about healthy indoor air quality. Additionally, indoor air quality assessments are offered to tribal residents and employees to measure pollutants such as mold, carbon monoxide, and lead, at no charge. The Tribal Air Program has also teamed up with the Morongo schools and Facility Maintenance team to implement the “Tools for Schools Program”. This indoor air quality program works to assure that the students will be learning in a healthy, worry-free indoor environment.
If you live on the reservation, and would like to schedule a free indoor air quality inspection, contact the Tribal Air Program at 755-5176.
Morongo Band of Mission Indians