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Headshot of Kristen Stipanov

Kristen Stipanov

  • Hosted by California Indian Legal Services
  • Sponsored by pH Foundation
  • Service location Bishop, California
  • Law school University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  • Issue area Environmental Justice, Racial Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Kristen’s (she/her/hers) project with California Indian Legal Services will implement key legal steps in reclaiming and using Indigenous water rights, both site-specifically for California’s Owens Valley and broadly for Indian public domain allottees nationwide.

Kristen’s many prior years of work with Owens Valley Indian Water Commission and California Indian Legal Services will continue through this Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Her project will make major strides in long-term efforts towards #LandBack and #WaterBack.

Needs Addressed by Project

California was founded on uniquely violent genocide against Indigenous people, including mass dispossession of land. California’s first inhabitants have since been barred from meaningfully accessing its most precious resource: water.

This project will address two instances of this injustice: (1) Los Angeles’s erasure of tribal water rights in Owens Valley and (2) barriers to accessing water from Indian public domain allotments facing fractionation, which happens when land is passed down intestate until it is owned by dozens or hundreds of owners.

Fellowship Plans

In Owens Valley, Kristen will establish legal next steps in the long-term campaign to reclaim Owens Valley tribal water rights. It will work closely with the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission to legally analyze a recent dissertation that thoroughly documented the Indigenous Paiute and Shoshone peoples’ water history.

Nationwide, this project will implement novel legal techniques for unifying management of fractionated allotment land. It will work with allotment owners on the ground in Oregon, California, and beyond, empowering them to use previously inaccessible land and appurtenant water rights.

“I have felt connected to California’s water all my life. I am grateful to work with California Indian Legal Services on returning that water to its original stewards.”

Kristen Stipanov /
2024 Equal Justice Works

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