Tribal Relations Blog
It's not every day that you are welcomed to a professional conference by traditional tribal stomp dances. Yet that is exactly how the 2013 “To Bridge A Gap” Conference started. In an ongoing effort to foster better communication between Indian tribes and Federal agencies, the Delaware Nation Indian Tribe, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, hosted the 2013 “To Bridge A Gap” Conference in Norman, Oklahoma on March 11-14, 2013. Ericka Luna and Mariel Murray attended and presented on behalf of Office of Tribal Relations. They really enjoyed meeting their Forest Service and tribal counterparts!
Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Mescalero-Apache Work Together to Control Forest Pest and Create Jobs
Since the early 1990s, the Forest Service' Forest Health Protection program, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Mescalero-Apache Tribe have been using a revolutionary strategy to control the dwarf mistletoe plant, which causes the most damaging tree disease in the Southwest. Tribal BIA firefighter crews and individual tribal-member subcontractors have worked closely with the Forest Service and BIA on the Tribe's reservation. The annual projects have resulted in what may be the largest, most successful effort ever to control dwarf mistletoe and improve long-term forest health on Tribal and/or public lands in the western United States. Over 20 years, more than 30,000 acres of dwarf-mistletoe-infested forest have been treated. These efforts, funded on an annual basis, have substantially increased forest productivity and provided employment for dozens of Tribal members.
Recognizing the benefits of regional local experience, the Office of Tribal Relations has used its limited budget to support three staff site visits to the field. In January, Estelle Bowman visited Alaska, and was graciously hosted by Lillian Petershoare, Alaska Region Tribal Relations Program Manager. The trip included meeting regional Forest Service staff and other federal staff who work with Tribes and Alaska Natives in their communities. Estelle participated in the Alaska Forum on the Environment, which was quite inclusive of Alaska Native and tribal perspectives. This dialogue between the Washington Office and the field has helped keep the Forest Service message consistent as we continue to work with American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Alaska Native Corporations.
Angie Bulletts, Tribal Member, Brings Fresh Perspective as New Forest Supervisor on the Dixie National Forest
Angelita "Angie" Bulletts, the new Forest Supervisor on the Dixie National Forest, was familiar with the area long before accepting the position. As a Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians member in northern Arizona, she grew up on the Kaibab and Dixie National Forests, as they are Kaibab ancestral lands. She is now eager to bring her special perspective to her new job by integrating tribal heritage and traditional ecological knowledge into land management decisions.
Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Signs Regulation Confirming "Government to Government" Consultation with Tribes
This week, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack released a Department-wide regulation providing guidance on Consultation, Coordination and Collaboration with Tribes. The Department Regulation was created following President Obama's 2009 Memorandum to Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Tribal Consultation, which directed "complete and consistent implementation of Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments.” The regulation set minimum requirements for consultation, holds agency heads accountable, and affirms that each USDA agency is responsible for appropriate consultation and collaboration with the Tribes.
At the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference, held on December 5, 2012, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of the Sacred Sites Report (PDF, 1.2 MB). In 2011, Secretary Vilsack directed the USDA Office of Tribal Relations and the Forest Service to speak with tribal leaders about sacred sites and develop a report. The final report reflects information received through more than 100 meetings with Tribal members, public comments received, and agency employee surveys. It also includes recommendations regarding how USDA can better address sacred sites issues.
Ute Tribes Donate 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree
The Ute Mountain Ute, Southern Ute, and Northern Ute Tribes accompanied the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree that came from their ancestral lands. Leaders and members of the three Tribes, along with Former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, transported the tree from the White River National Forest to Washington D.C. The Ute Traditional Leaders blessed a companion tree from the White River National Forest that was donated to the National Museum of American Indian, and then joined the Forest Service at the official Christmas tree lighting ceremony, where Colorado Senator Mark Udall acknowledged that the Tribes were the original caretakers of the National Forest, and was glad that they were included in the national celebration.
See the USDA blog post for more information.
Ceremony Celebrates New Forest Service Agreement with Indian Community
In November 2012, the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa began operation under a new agreement (PDF, 742 KB) with the Parks Falls Ranger District, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The agreement implements the 2012 amendments to the Forest Service 1998 MOU (PDF, 125 KB) with 11 Ojibwe Tribes, which includes Appendix C, Tribal Timber Harvest Framework Agreement. Through this agreement, District Ranger Bob Hennes was able to provide the Lac du Flambeau Indian community with a firewood cutting area on the District, adjacent to the Reservation. A small ceremony was held on-site, which included both Lac du Flambeau members and the Forest Service.
Forest Service Chief Tidwell Honors Forest Service-Tribal Partnership with a Chief’s Award
At the Chief’s Annual Awards ceremony in December 2012, Chief Tidwell honored Forest Service employee Ian Fox of the Cibola National Forest and Bill Ferranti of the Alamo Navajo School Board (ANSB) with the Cultural Transformation Award. The Cibola National Forest and Ramah Navajo Chapter helped ANSB establish a forest thinning crew to provide training and jobs for tribal members. With the help of three Forest Service Collaborative Forest Restoration Program grants, they have now expanded training of tribal members in forest restoration projects, including additional skills, certification, and partners.
OTR honors People for Achievement and Leadership in Tribal Relations at Annual Reception
During Native American Heritage Month every year, the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) honors people for their accomplishments in building, maintaining, or enhancing relationships with Tribes. Fred Clark, the Director of the OTR, presented two awards at a ceremony and reception on November 1, 2012. Joel Holtrop, former Deputy Chief, received the Lifetime Achievement in Tribal Relations Award. The Executive Team that oversaw the development of the Sacred Sites Report received Leadership in Tribal Relations Awards. The Executive Team includes Jim Hubbard, Janie Hipp, Joel Holthrop, Faye Kruger, Corbin Newman, and Leslie Weldon. All enjoyed Native American food and drinks following the presentations.
OTR staff Ericka Luna and Alicia Bell-Sheeter Complete Mini-Details in the Field
As part of a larger effort to strengthen relationships within the Tribal Relations Program and expand connections with field operations, OTR staff are participating in a series of "mini-details" out to the Regions. OTR Policy Analyst Alicia Bell-Sheeter participated in the first mini-detail to the Eastern Region (R9). The Eastern Region is home to the Lake Superior Bands of Ojibwe. Ericka Luna traveled to the Northern and Intermountain Regions (R1 and R4). Both learned a lot from speaking to Forest Service staff and leadership at Districts, Forests, and the Regions, as well as tribes and tribal groups.
Butch Blazer highlighted as part of Native American Heritage Month
As a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, USDA Deputy Under-Secretary for Natural Resources, Arthur “Butch” Blazer, is personally invested in maintaining and improving tribal relations. That is why he was highlighted in a recent USDA press release celebrating Native American Heritage Month. Mr. Blazer's commitment to tribal relations was also evidenced by his attendance and remarks at the Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations' Native American Heritage Month kickoff and awards ceremony on November 1, 2012. That event also provided a great opportunity for him to visit with our colleagues from the National Congress of American Indians. Read more about Mr. Blazer in our Winter 2012 Newsletter (PDF, 1.2 MB).
Indian Forestry at the Society of American Foresters Convention
The U.S Forest Service co-sponsors the Society of American Foresters Convention every year. The 2012 conference, held in Spokane, Washington, from October 24 to October 28, 2012, was educational in many ways. This year, in particular, was special because there was an entire panel session dedicated to Indian Forestry. John DeGroot, the Director of the Forestry and Fire Management Division of the Nez Perce Tribe and an active member of the Intertribal Timber Council, gave a presentation highlighting Indian anchor forests as a model for forestry. He also discussed the marketing and branding of Indian non-timber forest products. Additionally, Kent Reid of the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute showcased the Alamo-Navajo Project, which is a partnership between the Institute and the Alamo Navajo School Board to develop jobs related to forest restoration on the reservation.
OTR Sponsors and Supports Tribal Interns
This summer, the Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations and the USDA National Agroforestry Center in Wisconsin jointly sponsored an intern from the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians, Cody Westlund. The Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council (WTCAC), with the help of a USDA grant, also sponsored two American Indian students in its Native American Student Summer Internship Program. The WTCAC interns, Allissa LaGrew and Dylan Jennings, are college students focused on natural resources and Native American history. Allissa (Red Cliff Band of Chippewa) and Dylan (Bad River Tribe) worked on many projects, including Forest Service projects.
Read more about “American Indian Interns Work on Forest Service Projects” on page 5 in our Fall 2012 Newsletter (PDF, 2.0 MB).
Forest Service Research and Development Funds Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Video
Native Students from the Salish Kootenai College (SKC) videotaped their Elders sharing Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) at an interagency/tribal workshop in 2010. They hoped to create a documentary highlighting the resilience and relevance of their Tribe’s TEK. Dave Cleaves, Forest Service Chief Climate Change Advisor, and Cynthia West, Forest Service Assistant Deputy Chief of Research and Development, learned about the project and its funding needs at the Intertribal Timber Council’s Research Subcommittee meeting on June 14, 2012. They decided to offer the needed $50,000 to complete the project, and channeled the funds to the Salish Kootenai College using a Cooperative Agreement. Salish Kootenai College Media, in partnership with Gale Force Films, will now be able to produce an hour-long documentary, to be completed in 2013.
Read more about “Bridging TEK and Western Science Through Native Youth” on page 7 in our Fall 2012 Newsletter (PDF, 2.0 MB).
Students Bring Sacred Eagle Feather Staff to the Yates Building