Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Jenna Cavelle (2012)

Recovering Cultural Memory: Irrigation Systems of the Owens Valley Paiute Indians

Jenna will travel to the Owens Valley to conduct a 9-month community service project which combines education, outreach, and technology to engage the Paiute Indian community in restoring cultural memory associated with their ancient irrigation systems. These waterworks are currently in danger of being lost in the Owens Valley landscape through weathering and human neglect, and in American memory through the loss of culturally transmitted traditional knowledge. Through community education and engagement, Jenna will work with tribal members to explore archival materials and document Paiute irrigation systems and their role in shaping Paiute culture through narrative, photography, and GIS/GPS mapping. As these remnant waterworks have not been properly mapped or maintained it is vitally important to resurrect Paiute understanding of the cultural significance of these irrigation systems and their place in Paiute traditional cultural landscapes. The results of Jenna’s project will be exhibited in the Bancroft library at UC Berkeley and in the Cultural Center on the Bishop Paiute Reservation. While Jenna’s project has real bearing on tribal traditions and interests, it also informs larger local and regional communities through educational programs and museum exhibits, thus telling the story to a wider audience within the broader socio-political domain of contemporary California water issues.

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Jenna received a Bachelors of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies with a focus in the Political Ecology of Water in May 2012. Before graduating Summa Cum Laude from UC Berkeley, Jenna attended community college in Santa Cruz, California. After enjoying a career as a published travel writer and environmental journalist for several years, Jenna returned to college as a first generation college student in her 30s with a renewed commitment to environmental literacy. While at UC Berkeley, Jenna completed three months of fieldwork in West Java, Indonesia for her senior honors thesis research as both a Miller and Haas Scholar. Her thesis, which investigated the implementation of 'Integrated Water Resources Management' in the Citarum River Basin earned her highest honors and the Departmental Majors Citation Award. Jenna's academic and cultural curiosity with Indonesia was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of State with the 2012 Critical Language Award for Indonesia. Under this program, Jenna will travel to Malang, Indonesia during the summer of 2012 to complete a cultural and language immersion program. The research project she conducted on Paiute Indian irrigation history as part of her undergraduate coursework earned her the American Cultures Research Prize and is the basis for her Stronach Baccalaureate Prize project. Jenna feels most fulfilled when conducting community service, academic research, and professional work that serves marginalized communities facing water and environmental crises.

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