Native Americans are the first inhabitants of the Colorado River Basin and have relied on its water and other resources since time immemorial. However, tribes were not involved in the shaping the Colorado River Compact and its governing institutions, and they have faced uphill battles to secure, protect, and develop their water rights—including the ability to acquire access to clean water for their members. This article begins by explaining the historic role of tribes in governing the Colorado River system. It then reviews ongoing efforts to better integrate tribal needs, interests, and priorities into management decisions, and to support opportunities for more meaningful engagement of tribes in collaborative problem-solving and decision-making. Finally, the article provides a roadmap for the future role of tribes in governing the Colorado River system. The negotiation and implementation of the post-2026 management framework presents an important inflection point in the history of the basin to enhance the capacity of tribes and to reform the architecture of governance.

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