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National Indian Timber Symposium on West Coast Beaches of Quinault Lands

Posted July 12, 2018

Quinalt canoe. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.
Quinalt canoe. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

Quinault Tree Farm demonstration.
Quinault Tree Farm demonstration. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

The Intertribal Timber Council’s (ITC) annual National Indian Timber Symposium was hosted by the Quinault Indian Nation in Ocean Shores, Washington, June 4-7, 2018. Quinault President Fawn Sharp provided one of the opening plenary speeches and the Tribe’s welcoming remarks that charged the audience to look at possibilities and not limitations. She gave a three-prong approach to the 2003 Civil Rights report “quiet crisis” that describes decreased funding with still more work needed in Indian Country, Tribes having to do more with less. President Sharp said Quinault’s approach to this current quiet crisis is to understand the challenges, provide Quinault solutions, and offer collaboration with others, local, and national partners.

Taking this guidance to heart, the Forest Service attendees managed to cover all offered sessions. Topics ranged from Forest Products Forecasting, to Farm Bill considerations, to Project Learning Tree, to Wildland Fire. Several Forest Service staff was active participants and/or presenters in the breakout sessions. The Forest Service staff, including Forest Service scientists and the Forest Service National Research and Development Tribal liaison, worked collaboratively with other attendees to look for solutions. They offered to work with the ITC to complete a second assessment of tribal research needs and priorities to build off previous work done by the ITC Research Subcommittee in 2012.

Forest Service staff at the symposium.
Forest Service staff at the Intertribal Timber Council symposium. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

The Agency was praised for having over ten staff onsite throughout the four-day symposium, which is the largest annual gathering of Tribal foresters. Throughout the symposium, Forest Service staff was visible at all offered events and took part in the daylong tour that highlighted the host Tribe’s tree farm, tree harvesting areas, and cultural presentation of use of trees for dugout canoes. It was noted the Forest Service was the only federal agency to show this level of commitment.

Newly named ITC President Vernon Stearns’ symposium report included challenging the Forest Service to provide more Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA) opportunities, consider expanding the Anchor Forest concept to other areas of the country, and to support Tribal Self-Governance. His report will be made available online for review within the coming months.

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Bridge A Gap

Posted July 3, 2018

"Bridge A Gap" - USDA Forest Service Interim Chief from Forest Service on Vimeo.

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USDA Forest Service Unveils Multilingual Animal Names Web Page

Posted July 2, 2018

Alaska Region

Alaska brown bear names with picture of bear.

The Chugach and Tongass National Forests provide some of the most important habitats for a multitude of wildlife and fish species. Animals rare elsewhere, such as brown bears, bald eagles and all five species of Pacific salmon, thrive within these national forests and provide countless benefits—ecological, recreational, economic, and cultural—to both nature and society.

In celebration and acknowledgement of ancestral ties to the forests of Alaska, the USFS Regional Webmaster, Tribal Relations, and Wildlife staffs, with great support and leadership from the Sealaska Heritage Institute, have developed a web page showcasing our more common fish and wildlife species in association with their names in the Native languages associated with our area. Current languages referenced include Lingít (Tlingit), Xaad Kíl (Haida), Sm’algyax (Tsimshian), Alutiiq and English. Sound bites with pronunciation from a Native speaker for many of the species names are also included on the page.

It is important for our agency to acknowledge, support, and participate in the current language revitalization efforts that are taking place throughout the region. Language, land, food, dance, and cultural identity are all woven together in a critical balance. We can play a part by ensuring that when possible, our publications, signage, and events recognize the first stewards of the land. Our staff continues to consult and collaborate with tribes and Native peoples as new signs are erected, trails built, and updates are completed to recreation sites and facilities.

“Every language tells us something about the relationship between a people and their environment” said Wayne Owen, director for wildlife, fisheries, ecology, watershed and subsistence for the Alaska Region of the Forest Service. “This resource acknowledges that there is more than one way to talk and think about the rich wildlife resources of Alaska.”

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U.S. Forest Service and Mescalero Tribe Work Together to Celebrate Coming-of-Age Ceremony

Posted June 25, 2018

By Angela Aleiss, U.S. Forest Service Volunteer

A young maiden being blessed by medicine man.
A young maiden being blessed by medicine man. Photo courtesy of Holly Houghten, Mescalero Apache Tribe Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.

Every Fourth of July, the Mescalero Apache Tribe celebrates the female Coming-of-Age ceremony that marks the transition from girl to woman. The elaborate 12-day ceremony or Puberty Rite is a celebration of the girl’s journey to womanhood. “The girl is the powerful one in the ceremony. Without her, there is nothing,” explained East Thunder-Walsh, a Cultural Advisor with the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

The Puberty Rite involves building a ceremonial structure, preparing community feasts, the masked Gahé dancers, and sacred blessings established hundreds of years ago. The event takes place on the ceremonial grounds in Mescalero, New Mexico, and must follow strict traditional practices. One of them is the building of the “Big Teepee,” a large ceremonial conical-shaped structure in which many of the sacred rituals take place.

Mescalero tribe members raising teepee poles to build the "Big Teepee".
Construction of the “Big Teepee” for Mescalero Puberty ceremony. Photo courtesy of Holly Houghten, Mescalero Apache Tribe Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.

Until recently, the Mescalero harvested trees on their lands; but over time, the teepee pole stands were not regenerating. Thanks to a 2016 letter of authorization from the U.S. Forest Service, the Mescalero will soon be harvesting Douglas fir trees for use as teepee poles from the Lincoln National Forest. “The Mescalero need poles that are 35 to 40 feet long and six to eight inches in diameter at the base,” explained Dr. Bill Sapp, Heritage Program Manager, and Tribal Liaison for the Lincoln National Forest. Sapp explained that the fir trees are particularly stressed because of high density; they need to be removed anyway. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us,” he said.

According to tradition, the four teepee poles are harvested the day before the feast by a medicine man and his assistants. Each of the four poles has a special name and represents one of the four corners of the world. Eight additional poles are placed equally around the four to make a total of twelve poles. Canvas covers the top half of the teepee framework, while large oak boughs cover the lower portion.

During the ceremony, the young girl wears moccasins and leggings featuring traditional buckskin with intricately decorated beadwork. She is blessed with pollen and dances inside the teepee while the crowd outside watches the Dance of the Mountain Gods, or Gahé. On the fifth morning, the men begin removing the brush and poles. As the girl runs around a medicine basket in front of the teepee, the last remaining poles crash to the ground. According to tradition, the poles must “go home” and return to where they were harvested in the mountains.

The elaborate puberty ceremony within the Mescalero tradition is unique, according to Thunder-Walsh. “There are no other Apache in Apache land who have the ceremony and feast as we have it. It is the only thing that hasn’t been urbanized in our culture,” he added.

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Managing Lands Through Strong Relationships

Posted June 20, 2018

By Treva Slaughter, Public Affairs Officer/Tribal Liaison

Forest Service Heritage Program staff working alongside Douglas Indian Association (DIA) staff and Elders in the field.
Left to right: National Grasslands Council President, Jane Darnell; Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Mike Faith; and Grasslands Supervisor William O'Donnell.

Recognizing the importance of a strong collaborative relationship with our Tribal partners, the Forest Service Dakota Prairie Grasslands Heritage Program Manager, Liv Fetterman, along with the Forest Service Grand River Ranger District staff began work to strengthen the relationship between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (hereinafter Tribe) and the Dakota Prairie Grasslands (hereinafter Grasslands). In 2012, Fetterman focused on deepening the relationship with the Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

Over the next several years, the Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office and Grasslands staff began a commitment to participating in monthly meetings focused on relationship building. During this time, both parties had personnel changes creating challenges: new faces and personalities interrupted the process of building trust and discovering common ground. Yet, through it all, the Tribe and Grasslands remained committed to building a strong and resilient relationship centered on mutual respect and understanding – even in moments of conflicting views.

In 2018, the Tribe and Grasslands entered into a historic formal agreement ceremoniously signed by Tribal Chairman Mike Faith and Grasslands Supervisor William O’Donnell. The agreement focuses on increased collaboration for management of National Forest System lands located on the Grand River Ranger District that fall within the exterior boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. These lands are the ancestral homelands of the Oceti Sakonwin, also known as the Great Sioux Nation, and may hold sites of religious and cultural significance. Grasslands Supervisor O’Donnell noted, “This is a result of a strong relationship between the Grasslands and Tribe. The Forest Service is indebted to numerous staff over a number of years-their dedication made this agreement possible.”

The significance of this historic agreement earned the Tribe recognition as a Prairie Partner by the National Grasslands Council. Jane Darnell, Grasslands Council President, publicly recognized the Tribe at the 20th Anniversary Celebration ceremony for the Dakota Prairie Grasslands on June 5, 2018. Accepting on behalf of the Tribe, Chairman Mike Faith spoke about the importance of developing and establishing strong partnerships and connections with organizations such as the Forest Service.

The Dakota Prairie Grasslands values the many relationships that make management of National Forest System Lands for multiple use possible. Time invested in meeting with our public, state, federal, and Tribal partners is time well invested. We remain committed to developing and maintaining the most valuable resource of all – Relationships!

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Collaborative Investigations at Admiralty Cove

Posted March 8, 2018

Forest Service Heritage Program staff working alongside Douglas Indian Association (DIA) staff and Elders in the field.
Forest Service Heritage Program staff working alongside Douglas Indian Association (DIA) staff and Elders in the field. From left to right: Lydia Mills (USFS), Bernadine DeAsis (DIA), Rachel Myron (USFS), John Morris (DIA Elder), and Kamal Lindoff (DIA). Photo Credit: Douglas Indian Association.

Projects have been selected to receive up to $25,000 from the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program (CitSci Fund). The fund supports collaborative citizen science efforts where partners, volunteers, and the Forest Service work together in the pursuit of sound science and meaningful community and volunteer engagement. Read more about 2018 Awardees of the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program…

One of these projects includes the Tongass National Forest and Douglas Indian Association (DIA), a federally recognized Tribal Government. They will work together to document the cultural history of Admiralty Cove on the east side of Admiralty Island National Monument in Southeast Alaska.

Location: Tongass National Forest, Admiralty National Monument, Alaska

Partner Project Lead: Kamal Lindoff, Environmental Planner, Douglas Indian Association

Forest Service Project Lead: Rachel Myron, Archaeologist, Tongass National Forest

Funding Award: $19,490.24

Description: The Tongass National Forest and Douglas Indian Association (DIA), a federally recognized Tribal Government, will work together to document the cultural history of Admiralty Cove on the east side of Admiralty Island National Monument in Southeast Alaska. We will fulfill a Heritage Program management goal to complete a comprehensive inventory in an area likely to include archaeological properties with the help of DIA staff and Tribal youth as volunteers.

At the site to be surveyed was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cabin which was a National Register-eligible property that was removed because of safety concerns. A CCC trail remains near the site. As part of an agreement with the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office, this project will complete a comprehensive site survey to find any archaeological sites in the area.

Student volunteers will be paired with elders to collect ethnohistoric information. A field day will enable the same elder/student pairs to spend time in the Cove in the vicinity of the FS trail and recreation cabin. Students will refine their questions and record additional on-site observations as appropriate. They will assist professional archaeologists and Tribal specialists in conducting an archaeological survey, involving the use of metal detectors, pedestrian transects, and sub-surface probing. Archaeological data will be shared with the Tribal Council as well as with the Alaska State Office of History and Archeology. Participants will complete the project by designing an interpretive sign that, while protecting sensitive information, will share the results of the research with the public.

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Forest Service YCC Projects Include Tribal Students

Posted December 1, 2017

Story and pictures by Central Consolidated School District *

CCSD students.
Central Consolidated School District (CCSD) students participating in Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) projects.

It wasn’t your typical summer break for several Central Consolidated School District (CCSD) students who were spread across the country participating in Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) projects sponsored by the Forest Service through its partnership with MobilizeGreen, Inc.

The MobilizeGreen YCC summer youth employment program engages young people in meaningful work experiences at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. Students develop collaboration and leadership skills, explore the outdoors and learn about careers in cultural and natural resource management.

This is CCSD’s second year coordinating with MobilizeGreen to include tribal students from the various rural northwest New Mexico communities the school district serves. This year, 14 CCSD students participated in three sessions of the YCC, one in Eagle River, Wisconsin, and two sessions in Orleans, California. Two CCSD students served as crew leaders during their time with the YCC.

The CCSD students completed projects in trail construction, campsite restoration and other repair projects as well as projects in the preservation of historic buildings, streams and trails.

The students were recognized at the CCSD July Board meeting. They were praised for their efforts over the summer and acknowledged as leaders among their peers.


* Melissa Maestas, Coordinator of Secondary Schools
Central Consolidated School District
P.O. Box 1199, Highway 64, Old High School Road
Shiprock, New Mexico 87420
Main line: (505) 368-4984

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Office of Tribal Relations Career Development Day hosted at the Cibola National Forest

Posted November 29, 2017

Office of Tribal Relations staff and tribal participants.
Office of Tribal Relations staff and tribal participants at the Career Development Day.

The Office of Tribal Relations, Washington Office, recently introduced 13 tribal participants to potential careers in the agency during a Career Development Day hosted at the Cibola National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tribal Relations coordinated the event with the Southwest Region and Human Resources Management. Other support for the event included the Tribal Colleges & Universities, Ancestral Lands Program and the New Mexico Central Consolidated School District.

The participants, representing a variety of schools, talked with Forest Service staff who shared their experiences. Yolynda Begay, Region 3 Tribal Relations Manager, provided the Southwest Region welcome and also shared her career path.

Arthur “Butch” Blazer, former USDA Natural Resources & Environment Deputy Undersecretary, told the young people about his full-circle experiences that led him back to his Tribe, Mescalero Apache. He began his career as a Natural Resource Specialist with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, then became the first Native American State Forester and later served as a political appointment under the Obama Administration. He has since returned to his tribe, which recently elected him President.

He urged the tribal participants to “blend your traditional values with western teachings. Traditional ecological knowledge is important and honors who we are as Native Americans.”

A panel of agency employees answered a rapid-fire line of questions about their education, chosen career paths, years of service and other similar questions. The panel included: Dr. Tolani Francisco, Laguna Pueblo, Wild Horse & Burro Coordinator; Angela Sandoval, Zuni Tribe, Administrative Support Assistant; Arnold Wilson, Navajo, Cibola National Forest and Cynthia Benedict, Cibola National Forest Tribal Relations Liaison. Wilson followed up with the group in an email stating, “We need to do similar efforts for our next generation resource managers and promoting the goals of cultural transformation, being a model employer, and creating a USDA for the 21st Century.”

The participants also heard from Eric Garay and Averial Wolff of Human Resource Management about how to apply for jobs.

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An Ancient Native American Language Spoken at Grey Towers

Posted May 17, 2017

Chester Brooks, Lenape Elder.
Chester Brooks, Lenape Elder, addressing the Workgroup at Grey Towers. Photo courtesy of Forest Service Tribal Relations staff.

The Lenape people were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands and now reside in Oklahoma. Lenape homelands were once in the states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

On May 9, 2017, the Forest Service Region 9 Tribal Homelands Workgroup coordinated its annual convening at Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, Pennsylvania. At the beginning of the meeting, Chester Brooks, Lenape Elder and Chief of the Delaware Tribe, offered a traditional blessing in the Lenape language at the home of U.S. Forest Service founder Gifford Pinchot. Most likely, this was the first time a Tribal language was formally spoken within the walls of Grey Towers.

The U.S. Forest Service welcomed and hosted six federally-recognized Tribes to the area. The Region 9 Tribal Homelands Workgroup comprised of Regional Forest Service staff and members of the removed Tribes previously held four such convenings. The 2017 convening was held at Grey Towers, on land that Lenape peoples once lived.

The first day discussions focused on the increase of non-federally recognized tribes and self-identifying tribal groups to the detriment of federally-recognized Tribes. Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe presented on the developing phenomena of culture appropriation. Both issues are important in the work the Forest Service is charged with in its government-to-government relations with federal-recognized Tribes.

While hosting the six different Tribes (Delaware Tribe, Delaware Nation, Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans, Shawnee Tribe, Absentee Shawnee Tribe and Miami Tribe), there was also a formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Delaware Tribes and Region 9 addressing reburials of the Tribe’s ancestors. Region 9 has previously signed a similar MOU with the Miami Tribe, which has been a welcomed collaboration by the Tribe.

The Region 9 Tribal Homelands Workgroup developed a robust agenda along with a field trip to share information on local issues. The field trip to the National Park Service Delaware Water Gap provided a unique opportunity to have Lenape people walk on their ancestral lands and was quite impactful to all. After a full day around northeast Pennsylvania, Grey Towers hosted a formal dinner around the Pinchot family’s famous finger bowl dining table and ended the day with a fire side chat with Bill Dauer, Director of the Grey Towers.

In addition to other presentations on the third day, the Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations was invited to present an update on its initiatives to address the sacred sites training recommended in the 2014 USDA Report on Sacred Sites. The presentation was well received and the Tribal leaders encouraged the Forest Service to continue to train its work force on how to work effectively government-to-government.

The meeting was a successful gathering of 6 federally recognized Tribes; 10 Forest Service units and participants from the National Park Service.

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New Book Available

Posted March 24, 2016

American Indians and National Forests cover.
American Indians and National Forests.

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.”

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Office of Tribal Relations Film Series Connects Employees to American Indian Stories

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.

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Tribal Perspectives at Center of Wilderness50 Celebration

Posted October 27, 2014

Estelle Bowman poses with Tribal women at the recent celebration of the Wilderness Act's 50th anniversary.
Estelle Bowman (who is Navajo) with Tribal elder Sarah James, and other native conference attendees including Roian Matt from Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and Dr. Linda Moon Stumpf of Apache and Seminole descent

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!

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Subsistence in Southeast Alaska: The Tongass National Forest Service's Fisheries Resource Monitoring Program

Posted January 13, 2014

Opening title of the Subsistence in Southeast Alaska video.

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…

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Mariel’s Southwest Site Visit

Posted October 17, 2013

A ceremonial building, or kiva, at the Acoma Pueblo’s Sky City in New Mexico.
A ceremonial building, or kiva, at the Acoma Pueblo's Sky City in New Mexico.

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.

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Forest Service Represented at Tribal Activities

Posted August 7, 2013

Dan Bailey carries the Forest Service flag at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indian's Pow Wow.
Dan Bailey, a forestry technician on the Huron-Manistee National Forests, wears his uniform and carries the Forest Service flag at the Little River Band of Ottawa Indian's Pow Wow in Manistee, Michigan, July 7, 2013. Photo courtesy of Kaytlyn D. Bailey.

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.

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USDA Supported the 10th Annual Society of American Indian Government Employees Training Program

Posted June 21, 2013

Fred Clark receiving his SAIGE award from Shana Bearhand.
Fred Clark receiving his SAIGE award from Shana Bearhand. Photo credit: SAIGE.

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.

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Forest Service Publishes New Definition of a Ski Area

Posted June 28, 2013

Children tubing at a ski area.
Tubing is a snow sport that can be authorized at ski areas on National Forest System land as a result of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011.

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

People crossing a rope course bridge in snowy, winter conditions.

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

Snow making machines producing snow at a ski area.

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).

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BAER With US As We Make Change

Posted June 21, 2013

A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) crew hard at work.
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) crew hard at work. Photo credit: Penny Luehring.

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 pluehring@fs.fed.us. As the Forest Service works to make the post-fire emergency response program better, we thank you for BAERing with us!

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Forest Service Helps Return Traditional Tribal Land

Posted June 17, 2013

A Friendship Dance heralds the Forest Service-assisted return of a traditional area to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
A Friendship Dance heralds the Forest Service-assisted return of a traditional area to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Photo credit: Hugh Irwin, The Wilderness Society.

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).

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Alaska Native Fisheries Scientist Creates Tribal Jobs, Restores Salmon Fisheries, and Receives Forest Service Award

Posted May 28, 2013

USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Butch Blazer; Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon; Tony Christianson; and Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner.
Alaska Native fisheries scientist creates tribal jobs, restores salmon fisheries, and receives Forest Service award. Above (L to R): USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Butch Blazer; Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon; Tony Christianson; and Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner. Photo credit: Sandy Schaeffer Photography.

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!

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Forest Service and Tribes “To Bridge A Gap” During Oklahoma Conference

Posted 4-17-2013

Mariel Murray (left) in a tribal dance at To Bridge A Gap 2013.
Mariel Murray (left) in a tribal dance at "To Bridge A Gap" 2013. Photo by Ericka Luna (Forest Service).

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!

See the OTR Spring 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.4 MB) for more detail…

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Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Mescalero-Apache Work Together to Control Forest Pest and Create Jobs

Posted 4-17-2013

A Tribal member working on a ponderosa pine thinning project on the reservation.
A Tribal member working on a ponderosa pine thinning project on the reservation. Photo Credit: Williams Hornsby (BIA).

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.

See the OTR Spring 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.4 MB) for more detail…

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Estelle's Mini Detail to Alaska

Posted 4-17-2013

Estelle Bowman and Lillian Petershoare.
Estelle and Lillian at the new Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station. Photo by Amy Lesher, Forest Service Pacific Northest Station Engineer.

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.

See the OTR Spring 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.4 MB) for more detail…

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Angie Bulletts, Tribal Member, Brings Fresh Perspective as New Forest Supervisor on the Dixie National Forest

Posted 4-17-2013

Angie weaving a traditional Paiute cradleboard.
Angie weaving a traditional Paiute cradleboard. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service.

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.

See the OTR Spring 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.4 MB) for more detail…

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Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Signs Regulation Confirming "Government to Government" Consultation with Tribes

Posted 2-8-2013

Butch  Blazer
Butch Blazer, Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, appreciating Native voices. Photo credit: USDA.

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.

Read the Departmental Regulation (PDF, 110 KB) and read more about it generally on the USDA Press Release…

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USDA Secretary Vilsack Announces the Release of the Sacred Sites Report

Posted 12-20-2012

Secretary Vilsack announcing the Sacred Sites Report at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference
Secretary Vilsack announcing the Sacred Sites Report at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

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.

See the Sacred Sites web page and the USDA blog post for more information.

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Ute Tribes Donate 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree

Posted 12-20-2012

Ute Christmas tree ornament on the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree.
Ute Christmas tree ornament on the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree. Photo credit: Alicia Bell-Sheeter, Forest Service.

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.

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Ceremony Celebrates New Forest Service Agreement with Indian Community

Posted 12-20-2012

Scott Smith, a Lac du Flambeau tribal member, cuts a tree marked for firewood on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Scott Smith, a Lac du Flambeau tribal member, cuts a tree marked for firewood on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest as a result of a new Forest Service-Lac du Flambeau agreement. Photo by Mary K. Rasmussen, Forest Service.

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.

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Forest Service Chief Tidwell Honors Forest Service-Tribal Partnership with a Chief’s Award

Posted 12-20-2012

Opening scene from Cutting Edge Jobs, tribal members cutting small trees.
Forest Service grants help Alamo Navajo School Board train tribal members for forest restoration work. The Chief honored the partnership in his recent Chief’s Awards. YouTube video by Bonnie Stevens.

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.

View a short YouTube video, “Cutting Edge Jobs,” to take a look at similar successful forestry training initiatives on the Alamo Navajo reservation…

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OTR honors People for Achievement and Leadership in Tribal Relations at Annual Reception

Posted 11-19-2012

Fred Clark, Director of the Office of Tribal Relations, presenting awards for achievement and leadership in tribal relations at the Native American Heritage Month kickoff and awards ceremony on November 1, 2012.
Fred Clark, Director of the Office of Tribal Relations, presenting awards for achievement and leadership in tribal relations at the Native American Heritage Month kickoff and awards ceremony on November 1, 2012.

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.

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OTR staff Ericka Luna and Alicia Bell-Sheeter Complete Mini-Details in the Field

Posted 11-19-2012

Sunset on Lake Superior.
Salish Kootenai College Fire Compound hosts a partnership between the Tribe, Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Photo credit: Ericka Luna (Forest Service).

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.

Read more about Alicia’s detail in our Fall 2012 Newsletter (PDF, 2.0 MB), and Ericka’s detail in the Winter 2013 Newsletter (PDF, 2.2 MB).

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Butch Blazer highlighted as part of Native American Heritage Month

Posted 11-19-2012

Person 1?, Person 2?, Estelle Bowman, Person 3?, and Butch Blazer.
Leslie Wheelock, Brian Howard, Estelle Bowman, Beth Bahe, and Arthur “Butch” Blazer at the Native American Heritage Month kickoff and awards ceremony on November 1, 2012.

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).

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Indian Forestry at the Society of American Foresters Convention

Posted 11-19-2012

Tom Tidwell, Estelle Bowman, Gail Kimbell, and Mariel Murray.
Current Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell; Estelle Bowman, OTR Assistant Director; former Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell; and Mariel Murray, OTR Program Analyst, at the 2012 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.

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OTR Sponsors and Supports Tribal Interns

Posted 11-19-2012

Allissa LaGrew and sisters.
Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council intern, Allissa LaGrew playing Ojibwa bird bingo with her sisters, Andrea and Alexia LaGrew.

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).

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Forest Service Research and Development Funds Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Video

Posted 11-19-2012

Red berries
Native Students from the Salish Kootenai College videotaped their Elders sharing Traditional Ecological Knowledge at an interagency tribal workshop in 2010.

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).

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Students Bring Sacred Eagle Feather Staff to the Yates Building

Posted 7-23-2012

Haskell University students, Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell, and Office of Tribal Relations Assistant Director Estelle Bowman.
Haskell University students meet with Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell and Office of Tribal Relations Assistant Director Estelle Bowman to discuss sacred sites and preserving wetlands, July 12, 2012. Read more about the Haskell University students in our Summer 2012 newsletter on page 10…

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Last modified: 13:19:51 12-Jul-2018