Tribal Relations Blog
Posted March 24, 2016
Ted Catton has published a new book, American Indians and National Forests. This book is the result of a contract through the Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations. It is available from the University of Arizona Press and other booksellers.
Joel Holtrop, retired Forest Service Deputy Chief, says in the Forward to the book, “This is indeed vitally important work for the Forest Service, for Native Americans, and for American Society as a whole. It is my hope and expectation that this book will help us on our journey. To fall short would diminish us all.”
Posted November 21, 2014
By seeing and hearing stories through the eyes of American Indians, from the Trail of Tears horrid saga to a Lakota man’s fight to understand the thick dark fog that clouded his mind, a brown bag lunch series served as a catalyst to help Forest Service employees better understand the work they do.
In honor of the 2014 Native American Heritage Month of November, Tribal Relations co-sponsored the film series with the Offices of Civil Rights and Communication. Film attendees enjoyed treats at all events, including homemade brownies by Ruth Piotrowski, Office of Civil Rights and homemade treats by Kathryn Sosbe, Office of Communication.
The film series, shown over four weeks at Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., included independent film shorts by American Indian artists (see Injunuity); “Trail of Tears,” a 26-minute documentary about the forced relocation of American Indians; “The Thick Dark Fog,” a documentary recounting Walter Littlemoon’s decades-long struggle to cope with his forced early education in a government-run Indian boarding school; and “Gwich’in Women Speak,” a short film in which Alaska Native Gwich’In women speak out for their sacred land in the wilderness of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Robin Kilgore, Assistant Director of the Office of Civil Rights; Kathryn Sosbe, Office of Communication; Pam Williams, Office of Tribal Relations; and Estelle Bowman, Office of Tribal Relations, introduced the films. Marla Striped Face Collins, Mark Twain National Forest, is temporarily working for the Office of Tribal Relations in Washington. She helped provide context for the “Trail of Tears” screening by discussing the Mark Twain National Forest’s recent collaboration with the “Remember the Removal” bicycle tour—part of the 950-mile path Cherokee Indians traveled on foot in the 1800s which forced them off their ancestral lands in southeastern U.S. into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) goes through the forest.
“What a great event,” said Ed James, who works for Engineering. “There was a real connection of the historical account of the Trail of Tears through the film with modern-day relevance and context provided.”
“The Thick Dark Fog” is the personal account of Littlemoon’s experience in boarding school beginning at age 5. During the documentary, he and others who attended the school recounted repeated, horrific abuse. He talked of his struggle with alcohol and the abuse he inflicted on his own family before he could lift the fog from his mind and understand his trauma of anger and loneliness.
“Such a sad, cruel history,” said Jean Thomas, who works on the Watershed staff. “Thank you to the Communications and Tribal Relations staffs for sharing this with us.”
The last film in the series, “Gwwichin Women Speak,” is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 3. The film was part of the Wilderness50 Conference film festival.
Posted October 27, 2014
In October 2014, the Forest Service commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act with a big celebration of over 1,000 people in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Of course, Tribes were stewards of our Nation’s wilderness long before Congress passed the Wilderness Act establishing official Wilderness areas, and the agency worked hard to ensure these tribal perspectives were heard at the celebration. The conference included a traditional dance and blessing at the kick off evening session; a traditional prayer to open the conference officially; two keynote American Indian / Alaska Native speakers on the first day; two panels focused on tribal perspectives; and several demonstration tribal dances at the outdoor celebration. On the last day, the Forest Service Washington Office of Tribal Relations Assistant Director Estelle Bowman, and the Southwestern Region’s Tribal Relations Program Manager Dan Meza were awarded and recognized for successfully arranging all of the tribal elements.
At the evening Wilderness Film Gala, they featured a film about protecting Alaska sacred places in the wild called “Gwich’in Women Speaks.” It proved so popular that a second showing was arranged. The film’s director, Miho Aida, provided an overview, and Tribal elder Sarah James played a traditional drumming song before the screening. Afterwards, Tribal elder Sarah James posed for a photo with Estelle Bowman (who is Navajo), and other native conference attendees including Roian Matt from Salish and Kootenai Tribes; and Dr. Linda Moon Stumpf of Apache and Seminole descent.
Here’s to the next 50 years of Wilderness!
Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest Service's Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program
Posted January 13, 2014
The Forest Service partners with the Sitka Conservation Society to monitor subsistence fishing in Southeast Alaska, critical for co-managing this critical resource with Native communities on the Tongass National Forest. Check out the Society's excellent video about the partnership…
Posted October 17, 2013
Living ancient cities, sacred places long revered, serpentine rivers cut through red deserts alongside majestic pine-covered mountains. These were some of the awe-inspiring sights greeting the Office of Tribal Relations’ Mariel Murray as she weaved through Arizona and New Mexico on a two-week site visit.
Mariel also learned a lot from the people. She had the pleasure of meeting Forest Service colleagues in the regional office in Albuquerque as well as on the Coronado, Coconino, Kaibab, Cibola, and Santa Fe National Forests. She was greatly honored to meet many local tribal members through consultation meetings where she presented on the proposed Tribal Relations directives currently out for tribal consultation as well as at forest-level consultation meetings.
Read more about her adventure in the upcoming OTR newsletter.
Posted August 7, 2013
Dan Bailey, a member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (LRBOI), is a forestry technician on the Manistee Ranger District, serves as the Forest Service Region 9 Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native Americans/Alaskan Natives and is the Chief Judge of the tribe's court. Dan participated in the LRBOI annual Pow Wow wearing his Forest Service uniform and carrying the agency's flag in the Grand Entry Opening Ceremony.
Before the festivities Dan received support from his supervisor Barb Heidel and District Ranger Jim Thompson to approach the LRBOI tribal council with the idea of Forest Service participation. Given his positions with the Forest Service and the tribe, as well as his prior service in the U.S. Marine Corps, the council fully supported the Forest Service participation.
The Pow Wow brought together more than 5,000 people representing 19 different tribes from eight states and First Nations peoples from Canada and South America, guests, and other participants. Dan said the response from Pow Wow participants was very positive, "They all thought it was a perfect fit, seeing that Tribal culture is based on Nature as is the Forest Service." Representatives of four other tribes welcomed Dan to represent the Forest Service at Pow Wows they will host in the future.
Dan is proud to encourage his family be involved in both Forest Service and tribal activities. His daughter, Brandy Hill, is a law enforcement patrol captain on the Hiawatha National Forest and his 14-year-old granddaughter, Kaytlyn D. Bailey, took the photos of Dan participating in the LRBOI Pow Wow and will be sponsored by her grandparents in the Tribal Princess contest at next year's Pow Wow.
Posted June 21, 2013
The Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE) provides a national forum for issues and topics affecting American Indian and Alaska Native government employees. SAIGE promotes cultural transformation from an American Indian and Alaska Native perspective, educates agencies about the federal trust responsibility and the federal-tribal relationship, and assists government agencies with initiatives and programs honoring the unique Federal-Tribal relationship.
SAIGE recently completed its 10th annual national training program in Spokane, Washington, where it recognized USDA's support through a beautiful agency award. This piece of art exemplifies the elegance of Indian art and its connection to the natural world for which USDA plays such an important conservation role. Office of Tribal Relations Director Fred Clark also received an award for consistent support of SAIGE over many years.
Posted June 28, 2013
On July 29, 2013, an amended definition of a ski area in Forest Service regulations became effective. This action was taken to make the definition consistent with the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act (SAROEA) of 2011. SAROEA allows authorization of other snow sports besides Nordic and alpine skiing. It also allows authorization, in appropriate circumstances, of other seasonal and year-round recreation activities and associated facilities as long as the primary purpose of the ski area does not change from that of providing skiing and other snow sports.
Forest Service Efforts to Implement New Ski Area Law
The Forest Service will be taking several steps to implement the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act (SAROEA) of 2011. The agency will be publishing direction to limit approval of summer uses to those activities identified in SAROEA: zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, Frisbee golf courses, and ropes courses. There will also be direction to provide technical design and operating standards for zip lines and ropes courses. In addition, the agency will be proposing direction to implement the discretionary aspects of SAROEA; that is, adding criteria for approving summer and other uses consistent with SAROEA.
For more information, please see Forest Service Efforts to Implement New Ski Area Law (PDF, 59 KB).
Forest Service to Propose Ski Area Water Rights Clause
The Forest Service will be proposing new water rights clauses for ski area special use permits. In 2011 and 2012, the agency issued interim directives that included revised clauses to use in ski area permits to address ownership of water rights. In 2012, the National Ski Areas Association filed a lawsuit opposing use of the revised clauses. The court ruled that the Forest Service had erred in not providing an opportunity for notice and comment on the interim directive and in other aspects. As a result, the Forest Service will be proposing a new water rights clause through a Federal Register Notice and take public notice and comment.
For more information, please see Forest Service to Propose Ski Area Water Rights Clause (PDF, 58 KB).
Posted June 21, 2013
The Forest Service's Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Program's objective is to rapidly assess burned areas to identify post-wildfire threats to human safety, property, and critical natural or cultural resources on Forest Service lands, and take immediate and reasonable actions to manage unacceptable risks.
In 2012, the Forest Service BAER Manual's proposed revisions were provided to Indian Tribes for consultation. Tribal comments helped craft changes to the Interim Directive, which was published in the Federal Register on June 6, 2013. The Interim Directive directs and guides the assessment, planning, and implementation of post-fire emergency response actions on National Forest System lands to ensure consistent and adequate analyses for evaluating post-fire risks and determining appropriate and cost-effective response actions. Tribes are welcome to comment on the proposed revisions. See the Federal Register for an explanation of the proposed changes and the Interim Directive (PDF, 137 KB) for the full text.
If you have any questions regarding the BAER program, please contact Penny Luehring at email@example.com. As the Forest Service works to make the post-fire emergency response program better, we thank you for BAERing with us!
Posted June 17, 2013
On May 31, 2013, Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard and Forest Service staff from Washington D.C. and the Southern Region (Region 8) joined the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in commemorating the return to the Tribe of the 108-acre Hall Mountain property. The ceremonial deed signing was celebrated on the banks of the Little Tennessee River in Franklin, North Carolina, and was commemorated by a performance of the Warriors of Ani-kituhwa Dancers.
The Tribe was able to acquire the property, which adjoins tribal sacred lands, with a $302,300 grant from the Forest Service Community Forest Program. The Hall Mountain grant is one of the first awarded by the Community Forest Program and one of 10 nationwide. The Tribe plans to incorporate a scenic hiking trail system that will exhibit uses of natural resources traditionally used by the Cherokee as part of the project.
For more information, please see the OTR Winter 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.4 MB).
Alaska Native Fisheries Scientist Creates Tribal Jobs, Restores Salmon Fisheries, and Receives Forest Service Award
Posted May 28, 2013
Tony Christianson is a leading Alaska fisheries scientist. A Haida Tribe of SE Alaska member, Tony is the Mayor of Hydaburg, Alaska, the Environmental Director for the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and a member of the Federal Subsistence Board. He has spent the last ten years engaging Tribes in fisheries management, providing jobs for the Tribe and restoring an important sockeye salmon run to Hetta Lake. On May 14, 2013, Tony was honored by a U.S. Forest Service Rise to the Future Fisheries, Watershed, Soils, and Air Award for his accomplishments, especially in linking traditional knowledge with Western science on the Tongass National Forest. This was the first time there was a “Tribal Accomplishment” category. Congratulations!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).