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Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program Selected as Resource Assistants Program Partner

Posted November 19, 2020

A woman on a boat holds a fish for the camera.
Resource Assistant Alysandra Rodriguez working in the field. Photo Credit: USFS

The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP), a long time Forest Service partner, has been selected as the newest partner of the Resource Assistants Program (RAP). Melinda Hernandez Burke, the Forest Service Alaska Region Tribal Relations Program Manager, is enthralled with the relationship and says “ANSEP has been a Forest Service partner since I started with the agency. This expansion of the partnership is a huge game changer. The Forest Service has worked diligently to find ways to provide continuous ladders of opportunities for youth to learn about and find careers in federal service. Now that we have this partnership with ANSEP, we have the special opportunity to do targeted outreach to and recruitment of Alaska Natives into professional careers with our agency.”

RAP is a paid internship program that allows emerging professionals to contribute to work projects that sustain forests and grasslands, gain practical on-the-job experience with work-related training opportunities, earn a weekly stipend and benefits, and make connections to the Forest Service network of staff, partners, and stakeholders. Upon successful completion of the program (960 hours), participants acquire a direct hiring authority to apply for qualifying permanent Forest Service positions. RAP brings emerging professionals into the federal workforce by providing direct pathways to employment with the Forest Service. The ANSEP partnership will allow the agency to place special emphasis on outreach to indigenous communities for natural resources careers.

ANSEP is a consortium of organizations that works with Alaska Native youth to provide a continuous string of education components starting in middle school and ending with career placement. Since 1995, ANSEP has been changing the career trajectories of Alaska Natives by providing paths to natural resource and STEM careers. Bobbie Jo Skibo, the Alaska Region Partnership, Volunteer, and Service Program Manager, says “ANSEP’s mission and commitment to creating cultural connections between students and careers perfectly aligns with the goals of our agency. Advancing our partnership through the RA Program was a no-brainer. It is special to partner with an organization like ANSEP who truly understands the unique culture and tradition of Alaska Natives and the need to bring students back to their communities as stewards of the resources that they have relied on for generations.”

RAP is now the Alaska Region’s most promising pathway for ANSEP students to federal employment, where opportunities for emerging professionals often take them far away from home. To learn more about the Forest Service RAP, please visit:

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Karuk Tribe and Six Rivers National Forest Partner to Return Fire to the Landscape

Posted November 12, 2020

By Forest Service Staff

The ongoing wildfires in the western US have highlighted the flaws of strict fire suppression policy and drawn attention to the efforts to restore fire to the landscape, as practiced by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial. The Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests and the Karuk Tribe are collaborating through the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) to design and implement projects that revitalize the Karuk Tribe’s culture and sovereignty on their aboriginal territory.

Three small brush piles burn along the side of the road as part of the fire restoration initiative.
Pile burning in the area is a joint effort by the Karuk fuels crew, Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, and the Forest Service. Photo: Will Harling.

Since 2010, WKRP has worked to reach consensus and integrate shared goals of the Karuk Tribe, the National Forests, and partners including the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, local fire safe councils, and environmental organizations. Their collaborative planning efforts became reality in 2018 with the Somes Bar Integrated Fire Project. Tree thinning and prescribed burning help meet the mutual goal of mitigating severe wildfires. The Karuk Tribe’s traditional knowledge drives this strategy, intentionally favoring culturally important species and patterns of trees. For example, workers are removing conifers and retaining black oaks and tanoaks, which can then take advantage of the light and produce acorns that feed animals and people. Further monitoring will track the project’s effects on important species like elk (íshyuux) and Pacific giant salamanders (púfpuuf), and whether the newly managed areas have become less vulnerable to damage from wildfires.

The Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management project is prominently featured on a Story Map produced by the Karuk Department of Natural Resources. To see the Story Map, please visit: We Make the World Good Again

A man stands on top of logging machinery in a forested logging area.
Local logger Butch Crocker prepares to open a landing on the Somes Bar project, after receiving clearance from the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources. Photo: Alex Watts-Tobin.

Planning is now underway for a new project that aims to restore cultural burning to Ikxariyatuuyship, the mountain from which Karuk practitioners lit fires each year until the federal government enforced total fire suppression in 1911. The severity of the 2020 fire season has underscored the significance of collaborations between tribes and the Forest Service in mitigating wildfire risk. Former Six Rivers Tribal Liaison Devin McMahon says: “It’s been exciting to work with a group that is doing so much to restore relationships between governments, people, fire, and the land.”

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Meet the New Director of Tribal Relations: Reed Robinson's Perspective on Native American Heritage

Posted November 5, 2020

By Reed Robinson, Director, Office of Tribal Relations

Head shot of Reed Robinson in front of scenic landscape.
Reed Robinson has been appointed as the Director of the Office of Tribal Relations.

November is National American Indian an Alaska Native Heritage Month and an excellent time to consider what ‘heritage’ means to Native Americans. My name is Reed Robinson and I am the newly appointed Director of Tribal Relations for the USDA Forest Service. I am also both Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Heritage is essentially that which is inherited, passed on, or earned by birthright. And although powwows, beadwork, jewelry, and casinos are all part of a contemporary legacy, Native American cultures additionally share an inseparable connection to land, environment, and bionetworks. This connection is the birthright of every Native American, and the reason why we still disproportionately live, love, fight, serve, and die for this country. It is our heritage.

On this continent Native Americans are connected to the land through the culturally traditional practices of early men, women, and children who, since time immemorial, lived and thrived in balance with their environment. Upon contact the “original Americans” were recorded to be the tallest people on earth due to healthy diets, sustainable systems, and practical management of trade-based economies in buffalo, salmon, corn, rice, copper, etc. These ancient relatives successfully managed living within bionetworks in manners that complemented their respective ecosystems in all ways. They lived, loved, died, took lives, and gave life in harmony for tens of thousands of years without creating indelible scars upon the earth, and in land management we often retroactively “discover” these lessons that Indigenous people practiced thousands of years ago.

To date, the federal government has had the most significant role in impacting both Indian Country and the current population levels in all Native American communities. The once 100% indigenous North American population has dropped to a mere 1% of total population, and the true history of Native Americans over the last half-millennia is one of ongoing generational trauma. It is important that we take time to research and peel back the historical layers of local and federal law, policies, treaties, warfare, disease, and relocations to better understand the root causes of how a population of millions of Native Americans was so drastically reduced. This is also part of our heritage.

Native history is not only traumatic, but complicated and difficult to explain. For example, the name of my people is Lakota, however, our tribe is only federally recognized as the Sioux. The traditional Lakota view of life is that of a 360-degree hoop with all things and everything being connected, and this perspective is shared through many modern Lakota art forms. Lakota tribes are concentrated on reservations across the northern great plains within a small fraction of our original territory. They are also cultural centers where our traditional language and ceremonies are being revived, and where the artistically vibrant and contemporary Lakota culture is taking form. This too, is Native American heritage.

For me, Native American heritage will always be about my connection to this land, its true history, and everything underneath, on, and above it; and because you are standing upon Native American heritage, you are connected and part of it too. It is my hope that during Native American Heritage month you will endeavor to seek out and learn about Indigenous people in your area. We are still here, alive and growing in our traditional and contemporary culture and lifeways through engineering, science, agriculture, film, music, art, and dance. And everyone is welcome.

Mitakuye Oyasin. We are all related.

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“Mask-to-Mask” Tribal Consultation in A New Era of Social Interaction

Posted October 5, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations

As the COVID-19 pandemic stunted business as usual in many ways, the Forest Service is still finding ways to meaningfully consult with Tribes on planned projects. Throughout the pandemic, Forest Service has remained committed to serving the public and Tribal partners. Staff on the Santa Fe National Forest have truly embodied agency core values of safety, interdependence, and service through recent government-to-government consultations with the Pueblos of Tesuque and Jemez.

The new reality of reduced physical interaction means being creative in offering high quality service to stakeholders. As part of the federal trust responsibility to Native American tribes, meaningful government-to-government consultation on any projects that may impact tribal lands or a tribe’s ability to access culturally significant resources is a legal obligation. Face-to-face consultation is imperative to tribal leaders in carrying out meaningful, and effective consultation. This felt particularly pertinent when an exploratory mining proposal was submitted by Comexico, an international mining corporation. Tribal leaders of the Tesuque and Jemez pueblos did not feel that virtual or remote discussions would facilitate meaningful dialogue, and were interested in exploring options for in-person conversations. Ruben Montes, Tribal Relations Specialist for the Santa Fe National Forest, understood the concerns, saying “both Pueblos have very deep ancestral ties to the land near the proposed mining site, leaders needed to offer their perspectives in person.”

Montes went about coordinating an open-air visit to the proposed mining site.  “Once tribal offices began reopening, we arranged for separate transportation and agreed to maintain appropriate social distancing protocols throughout our visit,” Montes said. When traffic got in the way of the original plan, Montes adapted quickly and located a picnic shelter at the Forest Supervisor’s Office nearby. “This mask-to-mask consultation, as I like to call it, produced some semblance of normalcy in a time of such uncertainty. We were able to have productive conversations in a safe manner that enhanced our relationship with the Pueblos” says Montes.

Representatives from the Santa Fe National Forest and the Pueblo of Jemez having a discussion at a picnic table under a shelter at the Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor's Office.
Santa Fe National Forest Staff meet with representatives from the Pueblo of Jemez to discuss an exploratory mining proposal. Photo Credit: Ruben Montes, Forest Service Tribal Relations Specialist

While virtual consultation has been added as an option for those who are unable to meet physically, many National Forests are taking steps to continue meeting personally when safe to do so as a response to the continued desire to carry out in-person consultation.

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Traditional Cherokee Lands Placed in Conservation Easement

Posted July 28, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has successfully competed for a second Forest Service Community Forest Program grant to continue enhancing the Hall Mountain Community Forest in Macon County, North Carolina. Hall Mountain is a culturally and historically significant EBCI landscape that was once threatened by developers. In 2012, EBCI, in collaboration with the Little Tennessee Land Trust, earned their first Community Forest Program grant to incorporate a public hiking trail highlighting the natural resources used and managed by the Tribe. Now, the Tribe is ready to enter phase 2 of enhancing the forest by expanding the acreage and building an eagle aviary on the property.

Four men, sitting at a table in front of a crowd of onlookers, sign the deed for Hall Mountain.
From Left to Right: Larry Blythe, Paul Carlson, Michell Hicks, and Bill Taylor, sign the deed for the 108-acre tract of Hall Mountain. All were key organizers in the transfer of land. Photo Credit: Brian Townsend, Forest Service

The natural resources of Hall Mountain have been utilized by the Tribe since time immemorial and the significant history here is evident in the flora of the forest. There is a spiritually significant site in the viewshed of Hall Mountain that Tommy Cabe, Forest Resource Specialist for EBCI, describes as a place that holds not only spiritual importance, but also a rich history of trade. Cabe described the site as “a corridor of world trade where Native Americans, the English, French, and Spanish would meet and trade seeds, furs, jewelry, minerals, and more. Today we still see very high oak diversity and an unusually low elevation stand of table mountain pine on Hall Mountain, this is evidence of the rich seed exchange we once had here and just one of the many legacies of our culture that we are going to conserve by managing Hall Mountain.” Cabe goes on to describe how “these pieces of property really take us back in time, reconnect us and give us a different perspective on both the truths and untruths we have been taught.”

A group of Native American men wearing traditional garb pose for a photo before performing a traditional dance.
Warriors of Ani-kituhwa Dancers at the celebration event to commemorate the transfer Hall Mountain back into the ownership of EBCI. Photo Credit: Brian Townsend, Forest Service

The Forest Service Community Forest Program is mutually beneficial for both the agency and local communities who have intimate knowledge of the land. Cabe appreciates the Forest Service investment in shared stewardship, saying that “as stewards of this land, EBCI can demonstrate the incredible cultural and historical value of this land, and share it both within and outside of our community. I hope that this relationship with the Forest Service can be a demonstration to Tribes and other federal agencies of the value of our knowledge. We have the longest living connection to this land and that brings great value to the management of our nation’s natural resources.”

To learn more about the Community Forest Program, please visit:

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US Forest Service Maps Rivercane in Partnership with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians

Posted June 22, 2020

By Lexie Rue- Harris, Forest Service Regional Tribal Relations Program Manager & Michelle Baumflek, Forest Service Research Biologist

Two Tribal members using tools to process river cane that will be used for weaving baskets.
Tribal members Roger Cain and Whitney Warrior process cane for basket material. Photo credit: Lexie Rue-Harris

“Dihiya is the Keetoowah’s ancient word for river cane” explains Roger Cain, an ethnobotanist with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB). He goes on to say “today, the Keetoowah people continue to maintain a close relationship with this indigenous bamboo that has long played such an integral role in ecological, cosmological and societal lifeways of our people.” In 2019, the UKB was awarded a US Forest Service Competitive Citizen Science Grant to develop strategies for mapping rivercane stands in the Southeastern United States. UKB is also using the grant to start an Agricultural Program that revolves around traditional plants. This project-ideation grant, a partnership between UKB and the Forest Service Southern Research Station, is being carried out in cooperation with the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest.

For many Tribes in the Southeast United States, rivercane is a source of identity, cultural continuity and indigenous knowledge that is being shared with new generations of youth. Cain describes the many important historical and current uses of the native bamboo species “whether utilized at the stomp ground, for hunting, gathering, basketry, weaponry or even a food source in harsh times, the Keetoowah people have a special respect for river cane that continues today as we work together to conserve river cane ecosystems and habitats not only in our own communities, but nationwide.” Rivercane ecosystems, called canebrakes, play important ecological roles maintaining water quality and reducing sediment runoff. Through pressures like livestock overgrazing, land conversion, and suppression by farmers, canebrakes have been reduced to 2% of their historic range and are an endangered ecosystem. Numerous consultations with federally recognized Tribes in the Southeast indicate an urgent need for increased information and availability of river cane.

A man poses holding river cane in a scenic landscape.
Tribal member, Roger Cain, harvesting cane for traditional use. Photo credit: Lexie Rue-Harris

Citizen scientists use the iNaturalist app to collect geospatial and ecological rivercane data that can be expanded across the Southeast. This effort develops approaches for creating the first geospatial data repository on rivercane ecosystems and collaboratively generates research questions on river cane ecology and management meaningful to USFS scientists/managers, UKB, and other Southeastern tribes. Whitney Warrior, Director of the Office Of Environmental Services & Historic Preservation for UKB, says that “because of this grant and partnership with the USFS, the UKB has the opportunity to reawaken a once dominate cultural aspect to the Tribe and bring back the plant to the people. The historical use of the plant has been lost to many of the tribal members but this partnership can bring back the knowledge and uses to the people in modern times.”

In February 2020, members of UKB and Ozark-St Francis Forest Service staff met to map rivercane stands on the Ozark-St Francis National Forest,  also UKB homelands. Tribal rivercane artisans shared Traditional Ecological Knowledge with UKB youth and others through harvesting cane for traditional use and then processing it using traditional methods for use in basketry, blow guns, and arrows. Says Warrior, “the partnership has given new light to river cane with mapping, relationships, education, cultural heritage and sustaining river cane for our future generations.”

To learn more about this effort, please visit You can also get involved with citizen science in your community by downloading the iNaturalist app!

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Hoonah Indian Association Awarded Forest Service 2020 Wood Innovation Grant

Posted May 28, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Imagine paying four times the national average to heat your home. Imagine having to rely on a single source of food that could easily be impacted by ferry service. Imagine limited options in a rural setting. These limitations are being addressed through the community efforts of the Hoonah Indian Association (HIA). HIA has been awarded a USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations grant to design a biomass district heating loop system to increase energy independence in the small Alaska town. The design will seek to be fueled entirely by local and sustainably sourced biomass, the new heating system will have the capacity to power 8 existing buildings with constructions plans for a new biomass powered greenhouse and cultural center in the works. The Wood Innovations Grant program funds inventive projects that support rural communities by creating jobs, revitalizing economies, and supporting sustainable forest land management.

An aerial view of Hoonah, Alaska.
Aerial view of Hoonah, Alaska. Photo Credit: Ian Johnson

“Identifying sustainable fuel sources before the project starts is a crucial component of long-term success because it is one of the biggest hurdles. It’s great to see that HIA is already planning for long term sustainability” says Dr. Priscilla Morris, Forest Service Wood Biomass & Forest Stewardship Coordinator. Building on a readily available fuel source is a first step that will now allow the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership to participate in the design process and help determine a path forward. Current fuel source options include manufacturing residuals from timber production and excess biomass from forest thinning that would otherwise go to waste. Harvesting this product for fuel will not only help provide the community with power; it will also promote forest health and decrease wildfire risk.

The community benefit of this system goes far beyond energy production. The biomass system and planned greenhouse could model efforts by the Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales (POW) Island and become key components of the curriculum in Hoonah schools. On POW, elementary and middle schoolers will learn how to grow and market the food in the greenhouse, while high schoolers will go on to learn about the mechanics behind the biomass heating loop system. Ian Johnson, the HIA Environmental Coordinator says “I cannot understate the impact of a project like this in a small community like Hoonah. Our collective efforts that will teach our young people how to remain self-sufficient will go a long way to our community well-being.” The ability to grow food year-round in the planned greenhouse increases community access to healthy, local, and affordable food options. In a community where food supply can be uncertain at times due to a destabilized ferry delivery system, being able to grow food locally all year long is a huge leap in food sovereignty.

Logs of forest thinning byproduct that can be used as fuel in the biomass system.
Forest thinning byproduct that can be used as fuel in the biomass system. Photo credit: Ian Johnson

The Wood Innovation Grant is crucial is pivotal to improving Hoonah’s community resilience by promoting energy independence, food sovereignty, and economic stability. To learn more about the Wood Innovations Program, please visit:

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Voices of Maple Nation

Posted March 25, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Through funding from the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Voices of Maple Nation Indigenous women’s climate summit has brought together Native American women from the United States and Canada to share culture, knowledge, and strategies for adapting to climate change. Maple Nation refers to an area in North America from Minnesota, USA to New Brunswick, Canada, where sugar maple is regarded by many tribes as the leader among trees. The territories of the Abnaki, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Wabanaki peoples are located within Maple Nation; these tribes have subsisted on, shared, and conserved maple forests since time immemorial.    

Participants of the Maple Nation climate summit posing for a photo
Participants of the 4 day Voices of Maple Nation climate summit. Photo credit: Voices of Maple Nation

Dr. Robin Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), professor of Environmental Biology at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, conceptualized Maple Nation to support and strengthen Native women’s leadership in climate change adaptation. Dr. Kimmerer explains, “in the native cultures of Maple Nation, women are understood as having a special responsibility for the land, and for decision making about life. As life givers, we have a special connection to Mother Earth.” While climate change shifts the distribution of maple trees and many other species, Tribal women across the northeast continue to take initiative to mitigate and adapt to these changes.

Traditional teachings and contemporary knowledge are being combined to mold creative and resilient climate adaptation strategies. Ground zero greenhouse on the Mohawk Seed keeper gardens on Six Nations is built with recycled materials diverted from landfills and uses low energy techniques to grow heritage Haudenosaunee seed varieties. In Maine, the Wabanaki Plant Gathering weaves traditional knowledge and modern science to explore sustainable harvest of sweetgrass, a cultural species used for basket weaving.

Young women of maple nation pose for a photo in front of a scenic view.
Youth participants of the Voices of Maple Nation climate summit on a hike: Photo credit: Voices of Maple Nation

Dr. Marla R. Emery , Research Geographer with the Northern Research Station and core co-organizer of the summit says “for millennia, Indigenous women have adapted to changes of all kinds. They have much to offer the world and we at the Forest Service have so much to gain from their collective knowledge.” Emery says, “There is power in doing the work together. Each woman brings wisdom from her nation, her nation’s first teachings, and her experiences. We need this wisdom to respond both locally and globally to an issue as complex as climate change.”
To learn more about Maple Nation and the women lead climate adaptation initiatives, please visit:

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Rebuilding Wahhoga

Posted February 6, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

The Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe is rebuilding their Wahhoga, the Miwuk word for village, using timber and rock from the Groveland Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. The Forest Service has been utilizing the Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority from the 2008 farm bill, which includes a section that permits free use of forest resources for traditional and cultural purposes, to provide unique benefits to tribes. Yosemite National Park lands are the ancestral homelands for 7 tribes, which were formerly part of the prehistoric Ahwanechee tribe. The park signed an historic agreement allowing the Southern Sierra Miwuk tribe to rebuild Wahhoga and use the site for traditional and cultural purposes over the next 30 years. Tony Brochini, Executive Director of the Wahhoga Committee, has deep ties to the village, as he spent his childhood there until its closure in 1969. Brochini reminisced on his time living in Wahhoga, saying “we used to run all over the place, it was hard to contain us. We were 4 or 5 years old and we would climb all over the rocks, it was pretty awesome. My childhood was so memorable, and it seems like yesterday. I will always remember this place as my home.”

Conceptual drawing of Wahhoga.
Conceptual drawing of Wahhoga village. Photo Credit: Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey

The Southern Sierra Miwuk will become one of two tribes in the entire nation permitted to use National Park Service land for traditional and cultural purposes. Emphasizing the importance of being able to use this particular land, Brochini says  “Yosemite is our traditional, spiritual, and cultural place that we visit and use every day.” The tribe is building a traditional roundhouse, modern Indian Cultural Center and several umachas, traditional dwellings covered in cedar bark. The tribe is using cedar and oak from the Stanislaus to build the umachas and cultural center, and is using stone from a quarry on the forest to build the roundhouse.

Yosemite Indians stand in front of Tunnel View, a site near Wahhoga.
Yosemite Indians at Tunnel View, a site near Wahhoga. Photo Credit: Tony Brochini

Kathy Strain, Regional Tribal Relations Program Manager, has been working with the tribe for over 20 years and says this is “one of my proudest moments – I feel like we can provide a service unlike anything the tribe really has. It’s really novel that the farm bill allows us to do this. It feels good to know that if they have a need, we can help.” Strain feels honored to be a part of the reconstruction and applauds Yosemite park superintendent, Michael Reynolds for “recognizing the wrongs of the past and wanting to make things right. It wasn’t just that the tribe needed their ceremony back, they also needed the place back. Wahhoga is their home.”

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Arizona Conservation Corps Pilots Indian Youth Service Corps Program with Tonto National Forest

Posted January 28, 2020

By Arizona Conservation Corps Tribal Relations Staff

In 2014, the Forest Service’s Office of Tribal Relations provided funding that began a Native youth development relationship between the Tonto National Forest and the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC) that has resulted in the AZCC Native crews working each year since. AZCC connects youth, young adults and recent era military veterans with conservation service work projects on public and tribal lands. Recently, Native crews helped with the restoration of portions of the Superstition Wilderness on the Tonto National Forest and worked on portal systems impacted by the devastating Woodbury fire. Further north, the well-established AZCC White Mountain office has been managing Native crews for years in accordance with the White Mountain Apache Tribe and with state and federal agencies such as the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Starla Reno (Tohono O’odham), AZCC Native Crew Leader shares about her conservation service experience, "The experience was so impactful as each crew member, including myself, was very connected to the project areas. Each area held a strong history with our ancestors’ footprints and presence they left behind. We understand that we are the caretakers of the land and we must do our best to preserve these lands because our ancestors, our future, and our Earth are depending on us." The long-term meaningful work completed by Native crews on the Tonto National Forest, and on other forests in the area, will serve as an integral part of the foundation for creating a sustainable Indian Youth Service Corps (IYSC) program in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

2 Arizona Conservation Corps members building a fence.
AZCC crew members installing fencing. Photo credit: Arizona Conservation Corps

AZCC has built solid relationships with the Tribes of Arizona. The San Carlos Apache and Tohono O’odham Tribal Nations are both slated to implement AZCC supported Indian Youth Service Corps (IYSC) pilot programming in 2020. The Cocopah Tribe is working to partner with AZCC and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to run two salt cedar removal crews that will work key sections of the Colorado River to free-up resources for culturally significant species like the cottonwood. Finally, AZCC is working with the Ft. McDowell Yavapai/Apache Tribal Community wildlife department to plan and conduct an eagle nest understory restoration project that is essential to the health and well-being of one of the Tribe’s most critical pairing of bald eagles.

Arizona Conservation Crew members resting at a work site.
An AZCC crew looking happy at a work site. Photo credit: Arizona Conservation Corps

Greg Hansen (Ponca), AZCC Tribal Relations Coordinator, reflects on the time he has spent working with AZCC Native crews, “after working with our Native youth leaders over the past six-plus years I've been inspired by their sincere interest to learn about the land and by their willingness to work hard at becoming goodhearted people. I've been honored to work with some of the best here at AZCC and look forward to continuing to learn from and mentor our awesome Native youth so that they will be able to pass what they've learned about caring for the land on to the next generation of Native leaders." Watch for more on this priority Native youth IYSC development initiative by AZCC to work with Tribes and federal agency partners to provide quality conservation work, training, education, career mentoring and job placement to Native youth and veterans.

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Writing the Tribal Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority Technical Guide

Posted January 23, 2020

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Tribal Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority Technical Guide
The cover of the Tribal Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority Technical Guide.

The Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority (CHCA) of the 2008 Farm Bill was a great step forward in enhancing Forest Service ability to carry out the federal tribal trust responsibilities. These authorities are particularly significant because of tribes’ indelible ties to the lands now managed by the agency. Originating in the 2008 Farm Bill, the Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority legislation – unique to the Forest Service – expands Forest Service authority to manage reburials of remains repatriated to Tribes; institute temporary closures for traditional and ceremonial uses; provide free use of trees, portions of trees, or forest products to federally-recognized Indian tribes for traditional and cultural purposes; and exempt from Freedom Of Information Act certain requests for information that Tribes consider confidential.

The Forest Service recognized the significance of the CHCA and identified a need for a clear and concise summary of the authorities, as well as how to use them in the field. A team of Forest Service staff doing work in tribal relations coalesced to inform and author a guide to help “employees, Tribal partners, and other interested parties engage with one another to work toward mutually beneficial resolutions.” The guide not only provides advice on use of authorities specific to the Forest Service, it provides real world success stories, and even includes templates for drafting Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) regarding free use of forest products for traditional and cultural purposes.

Example signage for a temporary closure for traditional and cultural purposes.
Example signage for a temporary closure for traditional and cultural purposes.

Sharon Nygaard-Scott is one of many co-authors of the technical guide and key facilitator for development of the section 8105 chapter of the technical guide, which relates to the use of forest products for traditional and cultural purposes. She says, “The final rule helps the Forest Service fulfill its trust responsibility while clarifying the process Indian tribes will follow when requesting trees, portions of trees, or forest products for their traditional and cultural purposes.” By putting this tool in the hands of those working in the field, Nygaard-Scott believes it will “help agency personnel, and thus Tribes, as much as possible, when they receive requests from Tribes regarding forest products for traditional and cultural purposes.”

Read the guide here: Tribal Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority Technical Guide

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Dr. Frank K. Lake Receives Pacific Southwest Research Station Director’s 2019 Honor Award

Posted January 3, 2020

Dr. Frank Kanawha Lake, Research Ecologist for the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, was honored for his work that ensures the Karuk Tribe is part of the solution to restoring fire resilience on the landscape. Lake received the Distinguished Science Award, one of five Pacific Southwest Research Station Director’s 2019 Honor Awards. Growing up with his Yurok and Karuk family, Lake gained a deep appreciation for the utility of traditional ecological knowledge and dedicated his career to incorporating indigenous resource management practices into his work as a fish biologist and wildland fire ecologist. He says that, as a young man “I was able to spend time with tribal elders to learn the history of place, and their perspectives for solutions to some of the challenges we faced with environmental stewardship.”

Frank Lake leaning on a shovel in front of a prescribed fire.
Frank serving as a Research/Resource advisor on a Six Rivers National Forest/Orleans Ranger District prescribed cultural burn for beargrass, a tribal basketry material, enhancement at one of his prior research sites. Photo Credit: David Markin, USFS Six Rivers National Forest

Lake’s scientific leadership within the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership has a profound impact on ecological resilience and community wildfire protection. He applies novel methods to study wildland fire effects, traditional ecological knowledge, climate change, and ethno-ecology. His collaborative approach to science delivery informs landscape scale decisions that provide abundant ecological benefits. Lake expresses his dedication to meaningful collaboration by saying “the respectful inclusion of indigenous knowledge in my research with tribes and with the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership involves the full cycle of research and then some: providing science support by addressing researchable questions and information management needs, developing interdisciplinary methods, selecting applicable metrics or variables of interest, conducting data collection with tribal crews and staff members, determining types of analysis, reporting findings in co-authored publications and presentations, writing blogs, and using media to inform the public in the creation of the best available science.”

Frank Lake sitting on a log at a research site.
Frank Lake at a LiDAR forestry plot for the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership [WKRP]. Photo Credit: Kenny Sauve, Karuk Tribe

The importance of his work is evident, as it has been featured in an exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, cited in recent Forbes, Wired, and the Guardian articles, and shows through his partnerships with some of the most highly respected universities in the country. Lake says that “this body of indigenous and western formed science can be a form of justice for these underserved communities, in that the work assists the agency with its federal trust responsibility, and that tribal community members become the direct beneficiaries of collaborative implementation of fuels and wildland fire management with improved ecosystems and habitats supporting tribal subsistence resources, gathering and stewardship opportunities.” Lake’s scientific expertise, combined with his ability to compellingly communicate the importance of the work, is a huge benefit to the Forest Service and to the future of forest management.

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Tribal Elder Recounts Rescuing Smokey Bear

Posted December 18, 2019

Smokey Bear celebrated his 75th birthday as a national fire prevention icon on August 9 this year. The Forest Service and the US Advertising Council created Smokey Bear in 1944. Since then Smokey Bear has become the longest running public service campaign in the nation’s history. Many know Smokey’s message “only YOU can prevent wildfires,” less may know that Smokey was a real bear, rescued from a large fire on Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. Even fewer yet recognize the team of firefighters who rescued Smokey from the Capitan Gap Fire in New Mexico.

The Taos Pueblo Snowball crew pulled the burned American black bear cub out of the embers of the fire. When 25 men from the Taos Pueblo boarded a bus into the blazing Lincoln National Forest, the rookie crew was walking into only their second firefighting experience. This did not stop the Snowballs from fighting both the Los Tablos fire and the Capitan Gap fire. Adolph Samora, a member of the Snowball crew, remembers mapping fire hotspots when some other firefighters called him over to what looked like a crumpled jacket lying on the ground. During the event, Mr. Samora recounted that “the little cub was covered. [A crewmember] picked it up and placed it in my arms. The cub had blisters all over his hands and feet.” Crew members wrapped the cub in their own jackets to protect his badly burned paws while they transported the little bear to safety.

Adolph Samora wrapped in a blanket, speaking to the host of Smokey Bear LIVE.
Adolph Samora, one of the original members of the Taos Pueblo Snowball crew responsible for the rescue of Smokey Bear. Photo Credit: Smokey Bear LIVE

Previous recounts of the Smokey story credit the US Army with the cub’s rescue, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs sought to correct this narrative in 2008 when they formally acknowledged the Taos Pueblo Snowball crew as the true rescuers of Smokey Bear. The Forest Service also acknowledged the correct narrative for an audience of 70,000 viewers in the most recent episode of Smokey Bear LIVE, which aired from the Lincoln National Forest. Smokey Bear LIVE facilitator Amtchat Edwards says “there are many unsung heroes in the firefighting community. The truth is the truth; we must give credit where it is due and provide people with the full picture.”

The Taos Pueblo Snowball Crew
The Taos Pueblo Snowball Crew. Photo Credit: Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Forest Service Chief Victoria Christensen provided a Certificate of Appreciation to Mr. Samora that read “For your participation in the November 14, 2019 Smokey Bear LIVE programming held at Capitan, New Mexico in recognition of Smokey Bear’s 75th Anniversary; for your service on the Taos Pueblo Snowball Hand Crew; and saving the bear cub that became the living symbol of wildfire prevention.” The certificate will be presented to Mr. Samora by the Taos Pueblo Division of Natural Resources.

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End of an Era: Farewell to Fred Clark

Posted December 11, 2019

Lenise Lago, Cindy and Fred Clark, and Chief Christiansen.
Forest Service Associate Chief Lenise Lago, Cindy and Fred Clark, and Chief Christiansen.

Fred Clark in gifted blanket.
Fred Clark in gifted blanket.

Many guests gathered on December 10, 2019, to celebrate the Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) Director Fred Clark’s retirement. As the retirement celebration was underway it was noted the day was also Fred’s 13th anniversary serving as the OTR Director. The OTR was established in 2004, making Fred’s tenure significant to developing the office and its service to the Agency.

Chief Victoria Christiansen praised Fred’s years as the OTR Director and for working to educate the Agency on their duties to include Tribes in the Forest Service work. “You have worked tirelessly to promote work with Tribes and have grown the Office to help us do our work to include tribal perspectives in managing our forests and grasslands.” The Chief presented Fred with a Chief’s coin that identifies our cores values.

Other guests joined to praise Fred for his mentorship and for his quiet way of educating colleagues on Tribal Relations work. He was recognized by a variety of staff areas and presented gifts while everyone enjoyed snacks and OTR designed cupcakes. The OTR staff presented Fred with a Pendleton blanket with a tribal design of a whale.

Fred thanked all in attendance and reminded them to keep working to be inclusive of tribal perspectives. He was joined by his wife Cindy and son Tanner as they thanked those gathered.

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Tribe Becomes Cooperative Agency

Posted November 26, 2019

KETCHIKAN, ALASKA – The Tongass National Forest and Ketchikan Indian Community (KIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on November 18, 2019, establishing the tribal organization as a cooperative agency for the South Revilla Integrated Resource Project Environmental Impact Statement.

Tongass National Forest Supervisor M. Earl Stewart and Ketchikan Indian Community President Norman Skan shake hands.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor M. Earl Stewart and Ketchikan Indian Community President Norman Skan shake hands after signing a Memorandum of Understanding on November 18, 2019.

“Ketchikan Indian Community appreciates the commitment from the Tongass National Forest to work with our tribes,” said Norman Skan, President of KIC. “This government to government relationship strengthens our resolve to do what is right for the forest. We could not ask for a better partner in this endeavor.”

As a cooperating agency, KIC will provide their specialized knowledge and expertise on land management, subsistence, traditional ecological knowledge, and natural resources toward the development of the Environmental Impact Statement.

“This MOU means we can continue to build on our relationship of trust and cooperation, by sharing skills and resources to help shape the environmental analysis,” said M. Earl Stewart, Tongass National Forest Supervisor. “By working together, we can recognize common goals and achieve a balanced approach to multiple-use management across these public lands.”

The project is designed to improve forest health, restore fish and wildlife habitat, enhance recreation, provide timber, and increase economic development in the city of Ketchikan over a period of 15 years.

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Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge to Conserve Culturally Significant Plants

Posted November 25, 2019

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Culturally Significant Plant Species Initiative charter cover.
The Culturally Significant Plant Species Initiative charter lays out a conservation plan that incorporates traditional ecological knowledge.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), with the US Forest Service Southern Research Station and Cherokee National Forest are leading participants in a novel Culturally Significant Plant Species Initiative. The initiative is part of the Southern Appalachian Man in the Biosphere program. The initiative’s charter is an agreement across federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to conserve and restore important plant species through research, education and active ecosystem management. At the core of this charter is the intention to incorporate and honor the Traditional Ecological Knowledge that Cherokee people have developed over centuries to thrive in Appalachian region landscapes. The charter reinforces that the Cherokee relationship with plants and the land supports both current and past connections to language, cultural practices, education, and identity. Rob Doudrick, Forest Service Southern Research Station Director, emphasizes the importance of “fulfilling the federal trust responsibility by respecting confidentiality of the tribe’s cultural, ceremonial, and spiritual uses of plants from across the landscape.”

Culturally significant plant species are valued for their traditional, present, and potential uses. They include species with culinary uses, species used for crafts, medicines and ceremonial purposes utilizing plant parts such as fruits, nuts, leaves, roots, and mushrooms. They also include crop wild relatives valued for crop improvement and providing for the current and future food security of people. Culturally significant plants contribute directly to people’s health, wellbeing, and food sovereignty. Michelle Baumflek, SRS Research Biologist notes that “these initiatives are important because very little research exists on many of the plant species important to tribes today.” Some culturally significant species found in the Appalachians are ramps, white oak, and rivercane.

White oak baskets on display at Qualla Arts and Crafts.
White oak baskets at Qualla Arts and Crafts, a Native American cooperative in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Photo Credit: John Schelhas, USFS Southern Research Station.

The tribe and the Southern Research Station currently have a research agreement focused on culturally significant plants. This agreement provides a mechanism for the Forest Service and tribe to jointly support the CSPSI charter and carry out initiatives in research, restoration, management and utilization, as well as education and outreach. The tribe’s Natural Resources program “manages forest and wildlife resources for the benefit of the tribe and sustainability” for future generations. The Forest Service recognizes indigenous peoples as the original stewards of Appalachian ecosystems. John Schelhas, SRS Research Forester says “collaborative research on human-environment interactions will produce knowledge that benefits both the agency and the tribe”. Some of the joint efforts underway include compiling cultural and ecological information about significant plants, coordinating and conducting research regarding fire and sustainable management, organizing workshops with tribal artisans, designing informational posters and brochures, and presenting research at scientific meetings.

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Building Relationships on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

Posted November 18, 2019

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Developed by the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail program

In June 2019, Gary Aitken Jr., Chairman of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho (KTOI), hosted Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa and Northern Regional Forester Leanne Marten for a signing ceremony at KTOI Tribal Headquarters in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The leaders signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that expands on the KTOI’s long-time relationship with the Forest Service to establish government-to-government consultation and coordination regarding the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail.

Leanne Marten (R1 Regional Forester), Gary Aitken Jr. (KTOI Chairman), and Glenn Casamassa (R6 Regional Forester).
MOU signing ceremony at the KTOI Tribal Headquarters in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The photo shows (left to right in photo) Leanne Marten (R1 Regional Forester), Gary Aitken Jr. (KTOI Chairman), and Glenn Casamassa (R6 Regional Forester). Photo Credit: B. Lefler, USFS.

The trail was designated by Congress as a national scenic trail in 2009. Beginning near the Continental Divide in Montana, the trail travels through the Idaho Panhandle and across Washington to the Pacific Ocean. It spans 7 National Forests—including the two Forest Service regions—as well as 3 National Parks, BLM lands, state lands, rural communities, and the aboriginal territories of multiple Tribes, including the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. The Forest Service is the lead agency responsible for trail administration, including the completion of a trail-wide comprehensive plan.

View from the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail at Canuck Pass near the Idaho-Montana border.
View from the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail at Canuck Pass near the Idaho-Montana border. Photo Credit: B. Blanchard, USFS.

The tribe has treaty, religious and cultural rights, and resources on the National Forests in Ktunaxa (Kootenai) Territory. Chairman Aitken says, “The best method of ensuring protection and enhancement of those rights and resources is through our governments working together to steward the resources for the betterment of Ktunaxa and non-Ktunaxa citizens and honor the KTOI Covenant with the Creator to guard and keep the land.”

National Scenic Trails are long-distance non-motorized trails that provide for maximum outdoor recreation potential as well as the conservation and enjoyment of the scenic, historic, natural, and cultural resources. Managing the trail across many landscapes and jurisdictions can be a challenge but building a relationship that includes frequent communication and coordination for portions of the trail that impact Ktunaxa Territory felt like a natural extension of the good faith relationship established on shared conservation values of the Forest Service and the tribe.

“The Kootenai Tribe offers the best available science, an historical viewpoint of the landscape, traditional ecological knowledge and a willingness to share that information and knowledge,” says the tribe’s Administrative Director Rhonda Vogl.

The tribe’s Attorney General William Barquin says that, through the memorandum, “KTOI and the USFS hope that the positive, effective relationship it has built together will not only protect the National Forests in Ktunaxa Territory, but can also be an example of the power of working collaboratively on issues of common concern.”

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Winter Hawk Joins Smokey and Woodsy to Educate Youth

Posted November 4, 2019

By Sandy Marin, Forest Service Resource Assistant

Frank Winter Hawk and Súnkawakhán.
Frank Winter Hawk and Súnkawakhán. From the Pine Ridge Ranger District Junior Ranger Activity Booklet.

Through the invaluable guidance of Lakota elder, Rick Williams, the Forest Service has brought to life Frank Winter Hawk. Winter Hawk is a new Native American avatar developed by the Forest Service Pine Ridge Ranger District in Nebraska to highlight the District’s close relationship with the Lakota people. Williams imparted, “Frank Winter Hawk and his trusty horse remind us that tribal people have been connected to the lands since time immemorial. Tribal people are still here taking care of the land.” Along with a group of designers, Williams’ participation ensured the booklet was authentic to Lakota culture and language. Having grown up in Nebraska near the Pine Ridge District, he told stories of riding horses and learning about nature, similar to Winter Hawk riding his horse, Súnkawakhán, and picking chokecherries to make Wojapi.

The Winter Hawk story is one in a series of new Nebraska National Forest and Grasslands Junior Ranger booklets. This booklet walks youth through a sample of Lakota culture and language. It includes a recipe for a traditional chokecherry dish called Wojapi, teaches the importance of star knowledge in navigation and storytelling, and shares words from the Lakota language. Native people lived on and conserved the land long before the Forest Service began managing it, and Winter Hawk continues practicing traditional land conservation as a Forest Service ranger.

Susan Johnson, Julie Johndreau, and Linda Hecker, along with other contributors, created the booklet to present stories of indigenous people who are the original stewards of the lands now identified as the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands.

“Winter Hawk will create an opportunity for Native American children to see themselves as a Forest Ranger,” commented Johndreau. As a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, Susan Johnson was inspired to create Winter Hawk to demonstrate that Native American youth hold important traditional knowledge that the Forest Service values. “Providing the opportunity for Native American youth to witness the contributions of their ancestors as the original stewards of the land can translate into relevant conservation practices to sustain, maintain and promote traditional ecological knowledge. Indigenous knowledge and understanding are important contextual contributions to understanding and protecting natural resources for all of us,” said Johnson.

Winter Hawk’s story is one that everyone can enjoy. His story is one that will resonate with indigenous youth as well as expose all children to the unique Lakota culture. To meet Frank Winter Hawk and Súnkawakhán, see the Pine Ridge Ranger District Junior Ranger Activity Booklet.

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Tribal Youth Could Be the Future of the Forest Service

Posted August 9, 2019

By Estelle J. Bowman, Office of Tribal Relations, USDA Forest Service

Most tribal youth grow up among elders and community members who teach them directly and or indirectly traditional ecological knowledge that supports land management. Those practices of their ancestors are a great resource even today. It was a natural connection when Under Secretary James W. Hubbard, USDA Natural Resources and Environment, talked with 15 National Future Farmers of America (FFA) tribal youth about land stewardship.

Under Secretary James W. Hubbard, USDA Natural Resources and Environment addressing  the FFA tribal youth group.
Under Secretary James W. Hubbard, USDA Natural Resources and Environment addressing the FFA tribal youth group. Photo courtesy of the Native American Agriculture Fund.

Hubbard, who has oversight of the Forest Service, talked to the young people during their visit to Washington, D.C., on July 25, 2019. He began by telling them that their ancestors were the first stewards of the lands now managed by the Forest Service. Their ancestors demonstrated how to manage lands and we can learn from that management style.

“Through collaboration and shared stewardship, I am asking the Forest Service to work with Tribes to help us better manage the 193 million acres of Forest Service forests and grasslands,” he said.

Hubbard told the tribal youth that the Forest Service is developing a concept of shared stewardship because the agency understands that we may not always have the right management practices. In order to best serve all our communities, we must always learn from others, including Tribes.

Hubbard talked about blending traditional ecological knowledge with western science. There are Forest Service jobs that could benefit from having tribal perspectives, and he encouraged the students to consider careers in natural resources and forestry.

After the Under Secretary finished speaking, the students were offered time to ask questions. Lumbee tribal member Julius Locklear from the Lumberton, North Carolina, FFA Chapter asked about youth opportunities within the Forest Service. Hubbard cited the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Resource Assistants programs.

USDA Undersecretary answering FFA group questions.
USDA Undersecretary answering FFA member questions. Photo courtesy of the Native American Agriculture Fund.

Navajo Nation tribal member Stephanie Guajardo from the Monument Valley, Arizona, FFA Chapter asked if FFA was around when he was growing up and did he participate. With a wide grin, the Under Secretary answered that he wasn’t that old and yes, FAA was in Kansas where he grew up. He did not join a FAA chapter.

Other questions ranged from the structure of the department to the past challenges the Forest Service might have had with Tribes.

Other USDA presenters spoke once the Under Secretary finished his discussion. But before he left, he made sure they knew that Smokey Bear was celebrating his 75th birthday and passed out items bearing the iconic bear’s image, including pop sockets and stickers.

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Santa Fe and Carson National Forests Sign First Ever Joint MOU with Ohkay Owengeh Tribe

Posted August 1, 2019

By Reuben Montes, Tribal Relations, Santa Fe National Forest

At a signing ceremony on May 13, the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding with the Ohkay Owingeh Tribe at the tribal council room. Forest Supervisor James Melonas and Camino Real District Ranger Sean Ferrell joined Governor Ron Lovato to sign the first ever joint MOU within the Southwest Region. Staff from the Española District and Ohkay Owingeh Lieutenant Governor Albert Bowie were on hand to participate in the historic signing event that has been several years in the making.

Ron Lovato shaking hands with Sean Ferrell and James Melonas.
Ohkay Owingeh Governor Ron Lovato, Camino Real District Ranger Sean Ferrell and Forest Supervisor James Melonas sign a join MOU on May 13, 2019 at the tribal council chambers.

“The Santa Fe National Forest and the Ohkay Owingeh tribe have always had an effective and mutually beneficial partnership. This MOU will strengthen our bonds by providing for quarterly, leadership to leadership meetings in a true government to government fashion,” remarked James Melonas. “I am pleased to take our strong working relationship with the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests to the next level through the signing of this MOU,” commented Governor Ron Lovato.

“This MOU will advance the relationship between both forests as tribal leadership at Ohkay Owingeh have recently signaled their desire to partner with us on our proposed Rio Chama Watershed CFLRP Project,” added James Melonas.

The Santa Fe National Forest enjoys MOU relationships with four other federally recognized tribes including the Pueblos of Tesuque, Cochiti, Jemez and Santa Clara.

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Labor of Love to Restore Watershed Takes Collaboration

Posted August 1, 2019

Tribal crew working in Panther Creek.
Tribal Crew working on restoring Panther Creek. Photo courtesy of Kelly Schade, USFS.

For two years, the Salmon-Challis National Forest staff worked with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to develop a watershed-based restoration plan from the headwaters to the mouth of Panther Creek, a tributary of the upper Salmon River in Idaho. The waters had become so polluted that the fish that Tribes in the area had relied on for generations were no longer available to sustain the Tribes.

“It took a long time, but we finally have a plan that incorporates the Tribe’s concerns,” said Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Chairman Ladd Edmo. “We look forward to continued work with the Forest Service.”

Kelly Schade, the Forest’s Fisheries Biologist diligently nurtured the plan and recently reported to the Tribal Chairman that the plan is being implemented with success. Schade offered praise for this work, “I appreciate all the support I have received from Salmon-Challis National Forest staff in forging this incredible collaboration with the Tribes. It has been a labor of love to get us here and is a great example of shared stewardship.”

Schade reported that the Forest has successfully signed two decision memorandums signed for 6 culvert replacements, and instream enhancement. As well as securing $80,000 in grants and agency funding to help keep the momentum for restoration efforts.

Panther Creek has made history in its rebound from significant chemical contamination with the return of migratory fish. Although the Creek sits 900 miles (and 8 dams) away from the ocean, fish are choosing to spawn here, making it important to provide them with the highest quality habitat possible.

Tribal crew working in Panther Creek.
Tribal Crew crossing Panther Creek. Photo courtesy of Kelly Schade, USFS.

Nathaniel Gillespie, a program manager with the agency’s Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants staff lauded the connection between the forest and the Tribes. “This strong partnership to restore a degraded stream that suffered intense mining damage can and should be replicated,” he said. “This looks to be a great model potentially for training and experience in stream habitat restoration and conservation for other Forests.”

Currently, the Forest is implementing a large wood augmentation project utilizing a work crew of tribal members. The Tribes have quite the set up constructed that allows them to remain light on the land. They know these lands and are able to leave the lightest footprint. It is working like a charm.

There is more to look forward to in 2020, like getting NEPA reviews completed, implementing on a 7 mile reach of habitat, and a culvert-to-bridge installation that will open up 9 miles of habitat and restore high quality spawning habitat for Chinook salmon.

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Celebrating a Role Model in Tribal Relations

Posted November 15, 2018

The Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) hosted its American Indian and Alaska Native heritage observance on November 14, 2018. The OTR held a demonstration of its Tribal Connections map viewer for an audience of 20 guests from various staff areas of the Forest Service and staff from other USDA agencies. The demonstration was followed by the awarding of the 2018 Tribal Relations Professional Excellence Award.

Fred Clark demonstrating Tribal Connections.
Fred Clark demonstrating Tribal Connections. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

The OTR Director Fred Clark provided some background on Tribal Connections followed by a demonstration of the map viewer to show the various layers that captures information about the relationship of National Forests and Tribal ceded lands. The audience was offered real time demonstrations of areas of the United States of interest to them.

  • Amtchat Edwards from the Conservation Education staff requested information on Capitan, New Mexico, as it relates to his interest in the home of Smokey Bear.
  • Toby Bloom, Forest Service National Tourism Manager inquired about Tribes from the east coast. Since many of those Tribes did not enter into treaties with the United States they do not have ceded lands represented in Tribal Connections.
  • Joe Burns from the Office Sustainability and Climate adaptation asked about the numbers on the map which correlate with the documented treaties on file at the Library of Congress website.
  • Tina Lanier on assignment to the Ecosystem Management and Coordination staff was interested in her local forest in Oregon. She inquired about working to develop a more detailed map specifically for district rangers on National Forest for better coordination with local Tribes.

The Tribal Connections map viewer is an informational resource to help the Forest Service better manage lands. It has unique information based on Royce Maps from the late 1800s that are still relevant today and can help with FS planning.

After the demonstration and discussion, the group was treated to food samples representative of traditional Native American foods including three sisters salad, turkey skewers, fry bread, pumpkin dip, and Navajo named coffee, Jinjeeh Gohweeh (Second Night Coffee).

Fred Clark presents the Forest Service Tribal Relations Professional Excellence Award 2018 to Nat Gillespie.
Fred Clark (right) presents the Forest Service Tribal Relations Professional Excellence Award 2018 to Nat Gillespie (left). Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

While the crowd enjoyed the samples, the OTR staff honored Nathaniel Gillespie, Assistant National Fish Program Leader in Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air, and Rare Plants. Nat received the Forest Service Tribal Relations Professional Excellence Award 2018 for many accomplishments, but first and foremost for:

His work has helped foster trust and confidence in the interactions between the Forest Service and Tribes. His open, honest, and ethical interactions won not only the appreciation of our partners but serves as a model for others.

The OTR staff enjoyed demonstrating Tribal Connections, rewarding Nat for being a great model in Tribal Relations, and sharing food with our colleagues in honor of 2018 American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage month.

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Historic Signing of MOU with Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan

Posted October 25, 2018

Submitted by Jenn Youngblood, R9 Tribal Relations Advisor

Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson signs the MOU while Tribal representatives watch.
Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson signs the MOU while Tribal representatives watch. Photo courtesy of Forest Service.

On August 14, 2018, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan leaders joined the USDA Forest Service staff at the Baldwin Ranger Station on the Huron-Manistee National Forests for another historic moment in Eastern Region Tribal Relations. Tribal Secretary Frank Cloutier acknowledged over four years of work among the Tribe and the Forest that “It takes time to do good work.”

A Regional Forester Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed acknowledging rights of the Tribe as identified in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw to access, gather and utilize resources on 438,584 acres of the Forest in the eastern portion of Michigan.

This MOU intends to increase collaboration to manage natural resources in these ceded territories. The majority of lands identified in the Treaty are located on the eastern portion of the Huron-Manistee National Forests encompassing five eastern Michigan counties (Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Ogemaw and Oscoda).

Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson and Forest Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo provided the Forest Service’s formal remarks at the ceremony. Tribal Secretary Cloutier, spoke on behalf of the Tribe. Chief Ronald Ekdahl was unable to attend; however, six members of Tribal Council were in attendance. Sub-Chief Julius Peters accepted the Regional Forester’s signature on behalf of the Tribal Chief and received a Pendleton blanket. District Ranger for the Baldwin Ranger District Jake Lubera commented, “It was very special to host this historic event.” It was meaningful for all in attendance, particularly for those who were experiencing a signing ceremony for the first time.

Regional Forester and Forest Supervisor honor Tribal Sub-Chief Julius Peters with Pendleton blanket.
Regional Forester and Forest Supervisor honor Tribal Sub-Chief Julius Peters with Pendleton blanket. Photo courtesy of Forest Service.

The Eastern Region is committed to honoring the government-to-government relationship between Tribes served by the agency. Currently, the Region has MOUs with many of the 89 Tribes served, as well as, three large natural resource management MOUs in several forests with multiple Tribes. The MOUs acknowledge and work to facilitate the exertion of treaty ceded territory rights that have been affirmed by courts and treaty rights which have not been extinguished by the courts or Congress. This 2018 MOU moves the relationship between the Forest Service and Tribe forward a using a model that has proven successful over the last 20 years.

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Smokey Bear a Hit at National Tribal Conference

Posted October 22, 2018

Submitted by Serra J. Hoagland, PhD, Rocky Mountain Research Station

U.S. Forest Service staff from multiple branches of the agency hosted two exhibitor booths at the 41st annual American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, October 4 to 6, 2018. The annual AISES Conference is a one-of-kind, three-day event focusing on educational, professional and workforce development for American Indian high school and college students, educators, professionals, tribal nations and tribal enterprises, universities, corporations, and government agencies. The Forest Service booth was one of 200 exhibitors present during the career fair. The AISES Conference is the nation’s largest gathering of indigenous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals and students. The Forest Service team was able to reach over 2,000 individuals and had over 50 American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Alaskan native students signing up for natural resource related outreach activities.

Forest Service personnel staff the booth at the AISES National Conference.
Forest Service personnel staff the booth at the AISES National Conference. Left to right: James Wacker, Serra Hoagland, Lexie Rue-Harris, Jacob Conners, Laurel Poff. Photo courtesy of Forest Service staff.

Smokey Bear made a guest appearance during the career fair and was well received by the youth and elders at the event! The Forest Service booths were sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Lab. The Forest Service attendees included Jacob Conners (South Zone Engineer, Medicine Bow and Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland), Laurel Poff (Regional Recruiter, Southern Region), Lexie Rue-Harris (Heritage Program Manager/Tribal Liaison, Ozark-St. Francis National Forest), James Wacker (Research Engineer, Forest Products Lab), Vina Yang (Microbiologist, Forest Products Lab) and Dr. Serra Hoagland (Liaison Officer, Rocky Mountain Research Station).

Vina Yang stands with Smokey Bear.
Vina Yang stands with Smokey Bear at the AISES National Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Forest Service staff.

The 2019 AISES 42nd National Conference will be held October 10 to 12, 2019, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Moving Restoration Conversations from the Office to the Campground

Posted August 2, 2018

By Wade McMaster, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Forest Service

Campfires, swimming holes, and traditional gathering places served as the meeting rooms for the 2018 Klamath Restoration Gathering at Somes Bar, CA, where dozens of dignitaries converged on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River in far Northwest California July 11-13, 2018. All were gathered to witness how restoration practitioners are rethinking land management practices and looking to those grounded in the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the Karuk Tribe.

Circle gathering of participants for discussions.
Circle gathering of participants for discussions. Photo credit Wade McMaster, US Forest Service.

Participants of the Klamath Restoration Gathering consisted of leadership from federal, tribal and state agencies, as well as diverse non-governmental organizations from both sides of the California-Oregon border that bisects the Klamath River basin.

This three-day event began with a raft trip on the Klamath River that provided an up-close, personal experience highlighting the importance of the salmon and steelhead to the Karuk People. The raft trip also opened discussions on the balance of this ecosystem.

Rafting on the Klamath River.
Raft trip on the Klamath River. Photo credit Wade McMaster, US Forest Service.

Day two included a site visit of a Karuk Tribe-Six Rivers National Forestcollaboration, Roots and Shoots Project; a managed burn project for the purpose to increase the productivity of cultural resources including huckleberries and tan oak acorns. As temperatures climbed to 106 degrees, the group went indoors to enjoy some cool air, lunch and several short films about the cultural importance of fire in the Klamath Mountains and how its use can protect ecosystems and communities.

The final day began with a full morning discussion of lessons learned, additional needs and next steps. The land must have been happy with the discussion because as the morning started to heat up, the group was blessed with a gentle and refreshing 10-minute rain shower. The rest of the day was devoted to a site visit to the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership’s Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management Project to demonstrate how traditional land management practices can be integrated into today’s fuels reduction efforts to provide landscape level benefits to water, fish, wildlife, plants and human communities.

Salmon cooking at the campfire.
Salmon cooking at the campfire. Photo credit Wade McMaster, US Forest Service.

Although the agenda was packed full of activities to get the conversation going, a lot of discussion went well beyond the agenda. Much of the rich conversations over land management and partnerships took place over morning coffee, evening swimming, and sitting around the campfire staring at the fire…the very element that ties these three days and all of us together.

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First but not Last Forest Service Career Day at Tribal College

Posted July 18, 2018

By Vina W. Yang and James P. Wacker, Forest Products Laboratory

Charles Brooks with tribal students.
Charles Brooks, Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, describing Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations careers with tribal students. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

On April 5, 2018, twenty tribal high school and college students attended the Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory’s (FPL) first-ever Career Day aimed at introducing programs in the fields of Science, Engineering, Environmental Health and Natural Resources. The event was held at the tribal college, College of Menominee Nation (CMN) in Keshena, Wisconsin, and was made available via the internet to remote students.

The day started with welcoming remarks from the College President Dr. Diana Morris and Dr. Chris Caldwell, Director of the Sustainable Development Institute on the CMN campus. Drs. Morris and Caldwell encouraged the tribal students to use this opportunity to engage with the Forest Service staff and to ask a lot of questions.

Forest Service employees were invited to present their career paths to the tribal students. Brian Brashaw introduced programs in State and Private Forestry and FPL, followed by Dr. Hoagland who also gave a show-and-tell of her pinecone collection that intrigued the students. A summary of the FPL’s wood products research activities with a special emphasis on those projects related to wood transportation structures was provided. Rachel Riemann and Paula Marquardt from the Northern Research Station shared their research in the fields of forestry and plant genetics.

Two Human Resource staff, Connie Wick and Colleen Barribeau, presented remotely on how to apply for positions so students have an understanding about the process. They shared some dos and don’ts to help the students prepare their applications. Students also visited the display by Charles Brooks to learn more about Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations careers.

Presenters at the Career Day event.
Presenters at the Career Day event. Photo credit Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations.

This opportunity to bring Forest Service staff experiences and information directly to the College was well received. Based on the closing survey, tribal students indicated they learned a lot with expressed interest in following up with a tour of the FPL and having some hands-on experience. “I enjoyed engaging in-person with the tribal students,” said Dr. Hoagland, “The full day gave us a lot of opportunities to share beyond just formal presentations.”

This event was made possible through collaboration with the CMN and the FPL. We would like to make a special acknowledgement to the Forest Service Northern Research Station Civil Rights Diversity Committee for their financial support.

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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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Montana Tribes at the US Forest Service Holiday Reception 2017

Posted December 7, 2017

Montana Tribes add to the Forest Service holiday reception before the annual lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree. See the short video…

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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 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: 13:54:57 20-Nov-2020