Office of Tribal Relations: Helping to build long term collaborative partnerships with Tribes.

Tribal Relations News - October 2009

OTR Director's Corner

You know the saying, “May you live in interesting times.” This is an expression of both blessing and curse, which makes it uniquely powerful. There is no doubt that we are living in interesting times with far-reaching political and economic changes. Changes can be daunting, but many of the changes we face really represent opportunities to create a better and more secure future, provided we make intelligent decisions. After all, it really is up to us – our decisions and actions – to determine how historians will characterize these times.

In times of change, things can go awry, and when they do, it is important to keep in mind the value of what we can learn from the experience. As current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said not so long ago, “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.”

We have experienced change in the whole Tribal Relations program over recent years - new leadership and staff in the Forest Service's Washington Office (WO), new regional foresters, new regional program managers, and now a new Chief. There is the new Farm Bill, ARRA, new regulations, new policies, and new roadblocks to accompany those already in the way. Yet through these changes, I see the Tribal Relations Program as emerging stronger, more clearly focused, and with common goals that all of us can focus on together. Positive changes seldom happen as quickly as any of us would like, but we need to remember that we are indeed moving in a good direction and great things are indeed happening across the program, across the country, with many, many partners.

As we initiate with this premier edition of the Tribal Relations News, I see much cause for optimism. Internal and external partnerships, as well as a new policy environment, point toward good things to come. This new publication is the expression of these partnerships. It covers activities and insights from not only the Washington Office, but also highlights the accomplishments across the Forest Service in National Forests and Grasslands, Research, State and Private Forestry, and Business Operations. Tribal Relations affects all aspects of the Agency. Conversely, all of those aspects affect the relationships between Tribes and the Agency. I look forward to walking this track with all of you.

Fred Clark, WO Director
Office of Tribal Relations

In This Edition

Caddo Nation and U.S. Forest Service Southern Region Sign Participating Agreement

In June 2009, the Regional Forester of the Southern Region (Region 8) and Chairperson of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma signed a Master Regional Participating Agreement (PA) under authority of the Cooperative Funds and Deposits Act of 1975. This replaces and broadens the scope of a previous PA signed in 2006 between among the Caddo Nation and the Ozark/St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It is the first, and only, region-wide PA in the Southern Region with a tribal government as a partner.

The Caddo Nation and the three Arkansas/Oklahoma Forests enjoy a long and productive relationship, and that relationship now extends regionally. The Caddo were one of the founding tribes of the To Bridge A Gap (TBAG) conference (see the next story in this newsletter), have a multi-forest government-to-government Memorandum of Understanding, were instrumental in the Columbian Shuttle Recovery efforts, and assisted in large-scale post-fire heritage surveys of the Bugaboo Fire in northeast Florida in 2007.

The original PA authorized the Arkansas and Oklahoma Forests to employ trained tribal members in a variety of resource management work, such as wildfire suppression, prescribed burning, trail construction and maintenance, heritage surveys, and timber stand improvement. However, its authority was limited to three forests, and as the Caddo reputation for work ethic and professionalism spread, other Region 8 forests expressed interest in using their crews to help achieve resource goals.

“Developing a region-wide PA simply became an exercise in conducting good business. It also serves as a tangible symbol of our collaborative relationship with the Caddo Nation,” said Alan Dorian, Forest Service Tribal Relations Program Manager for Region 8.

The PA acknowledges the sovereign status of the Caddo Nation as a Federally Recognized Tribe, and sets a framework for training, activities, and responsibilities.
Under the new PA, any Forest Service unit in the Southern Region may employ Caddo crews. The Forest Service provides orientation and standardized training in a number of resource areas, including the National Interagency Wildland Fire Qualification System and the Region Eight Heritage Certification program (in itself, an 80-hour course). Tribal members are reimbursed for hours worked and transportation costs. The Forest Service provides annual performance evaluations. Both the Tribe and Forest Service maintain an active roster of individual qualifications to ensure that Forest Service resource goals are met.

“Since the PA contains the most current legal citations and required fiscal language, it could serve as a template for other regions wishing to develop a similar Agreement with one or more of their own Tribes,” said Dorian.

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To Bridge A Gap Conference

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma hosted the first To Bridge A Gap (TBAG) conference in Durant, Oklahoma, in 2002. Federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma who were interested in advancing government-to-government relationships between Oklahoma tribes and neighboring National Forests in Oklahoma and Arkansas (Ouachita and Ozark/St. Francis National Forests) initiated the conference. This modest conference, attended by representatives of four Oklahoma tribes and 25 to 30 Forest Service line and staff members, has grown and matured each year. Attendance now exceeds 150 registrants, and almost half of Oklahoma’s 38 tribes are represented, as are multiple Forest Service regions. The Caddo Nation, Choctaw Nation, Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, Muscogee Creek, Chickasaw Nation, and the Forest Service hosted subsequent conferences in 2003-2009.

Conference topics and agenda are largely decided by tribes with Forest Service support, and have included heritage resources, fire management, watershed resources, GIS, GPR, traditional plant use (and access), sacred sites, and land management planning. The conference name itself is also of tribal origin (Caddo Nation). Planning for the subsequent year’s conference begins at the close of the current session, with tribal and Forest Service representatives working closely throughout the year.

The ongoing TBAG partnership has gone far beyond an original intent of “bridging the gap” between local tribes and local Forest Service units, and is now poised to embrace a national perspective. In a number of respects, this is a natural, and intended, consequence, because tribes now resident in Oklahoma have ancestral homelands (and thus interests) in all regions except 6 and 10. “Following the sixth meeting in Norman, OK, TBAG’s emerging national scope was highlighted by formal interest from Region One and Region Four EXEC members, who approached Region Eight for more information on meeting philosophy and structure,” said Alan Dorian, Tribal Relations Program Manager for Region Eight.

Over the years, other federal, state, and local agencies began participating, as do academic institutions and industry. A cell-tower representative once noted that, “To Bridge A Gap is the best place to speak with multiple Oklahoma tribes in a local setting.”

The seventh annual conference in 2008 was the first hosted by the Forest Service, with the Choctaw Nation serving as co-host. A major focus of this meeting was dialog concerning formal agreements between tribes and Forest Service units, with an MOU signing ceremony with the Caddo Nation and National Forests in four states as the key event. Another first time event in 2008 was the Executive Leaders session, which is now a permanent and prominent agenda item. The Leaders Session is held independently from the regular agenda, and offers Forest Service line officers and elected tribal leaders the opportunity to engage in private meaningful dialogue. All participants have deemed it, with one tribal chair noting at the close of the first session, “that’s what I call real consultation.”

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Caddo Nation Heritage Resource Technicians and Firefighters Crew Welcomed to the NFGT

National Forests in Texas staff and Caddo Nation heritage resource technicians and firefighters.
National Forests in Texas staff and Caddo Nation heritage resource technicians and firefighters. Left to right: Brian Townsend, Gerald "JR" Lawrence, Williams "Joey" Dutton, Barbara Williams, William Quoetone, Rose Botone, Gary Parker, Stephen Botone, Juanita Garcia, Dennis Dutton, John Ippolito, and David Foxe. Photo by NFGT PAO specialist Ernie Murray.

Under the terms of a recently negotiated Participating Agreement between the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and the Southern Region (Region 8), specially trained Caddo Tribal members will assist in conducting archeological survey under the direct supervision of David Foxe, Davy Crockett National Forest (DCNF) Archeologist and Juanita Garcia, National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (NFGT) Assistant Heritage Program Manager. The area of study is the Groveton Stewardship Project on the Davy Crockett National Forest. Crews of six trained and certified Caddo Heritage Resource Technicians will spend four 2-week long periods conducting fieldwork. Fieldwork is scheduled to extend through September 2009.

A brief welcome and orientation to the NFGT and the Groveton project was held for the first 6-member Caddo Heritage Resource Technician Crew on Tues. June 30, 2009, 8-10:30 a.m. at the Supervisor's Office. Members of the first Caddo Crew to report for assignment, who are also fully trained red-carded firefighters, are Gary Parker, Rose Botone, Stephen Botone, William Dutton, Dennis Dutton, and William Quoetone.

The NFGT staff welcoming the Caddo included Gerald R. Lawrence, DCNF District Ranger; Brian Townsend, NFGT Tribal Relations Program Manager; Buck Doiron, NFGT Safety Program Coordinator; John Ippolito, Public Services Team Leader; Barbara Williams, NFGT Heritage Program Manager; Juanita Garcia, NFGT Assistant Heritage Program Manager; and, David Foxe, DCNF Archeologist.

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Denver’s National Get Outdoors Day Highlights Native American Culture

Exhibits, Native American storyteller, and visitors at the Cultural Connections Zone of the Denver National Get Outdoors event.
The Cultural Connections Zone celebrated the diversity of cultures and the Native American relationship with the land. Photo by Judy Genaic, Rocky Mountain Region, Partnership Liaison.

Denver’s National Get Outdoors Day (NGOD) Event took place on June 12, 2009. It was a great success, drawing some 5,000 visitors to City Park Pavilion. The educational, hands-on and family-friendly event was co-sponsored by the Forest Service and 80 community partners including city and state agencies, the National Guard/Colorado Army, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness/Colorado, non-profit organizations and local businesses. Other federal partners included the National Resource Conservation Service, the National Park Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Health and Human Service, U.S. Geological survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

With the intention of reconnecting kids to nature and a healthier way of life, the Denver National Get Outdoors Day Event featured a host of activities and attractions, including presentations on wildlife tracking, canoeing and kayaking, as well as a Junior Ranger Camp, a climbing wall, a Sustainable Living Village and the new Cultural Connections Zone.

The Cultural Connections Zone celebrated the diversity of cultures and the Native American relationship with the land. Susan Johnson, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Tribal Relations Program Manager, coordinated and facilitated a wide variety of rich cultural presentations at the Zone, including a Native American storyteller who shared traditional stories; brilliantly dressed Aztec Dancers who performed traditional dances with captivating energy; a lively Mariachi band; and two Native American drum groups. The Native drums, one southern style and one northern style, opened the day by acknowledging the many gifts human beings have and our responsibility to take care of the land, the water, the air, as well as our human and non-human relations.

“The NGOD community, as well as event attendees, really valued what we had to offer and met us with a great deal of enthusiasm and encouragement,” said Johnson. “Our activities brought a fun, unique and colorful dimension to the event, and with continued support from the Forest Service, and contributions from the other ‘Zone’ partners, I see the Cultural Connections Zone happening again next year.”

Of the over 5,000 people at the event, half of those in attendance were under 18 years of age.

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Revision to Forest Service Regulation Eliminates Bonding Requirement

Prior to October 21, 2008, Indian Tribes that worked with the Forest Service through reimbursable contracts or agreements were required to obtain a performance bond before the work could be approved. By guaranteeing payment, performance bonds provide financial security for the agency in cases where the cooperator is unable to reimburse agency expenses. This requirement was time consuming and costly, but was also seen as an affront to tribal sovereignty because state, county, and local governments were not required to post bonds for the same type of work.

The issue was originally raised in March of 2007 through a white paper developed by the Nez Perce Tribe. Anne Connor of the Clearwater National Forest brought the white paper to the attention of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations (OTR). In the paper, the Tribe requested that they be treated as a governmental entity when dealing with the Forest Service on reimbursable agreements. Noting that this bond requirement did not properly acknowledge Tribes as distinct governmental entities, the OTR resolved to investigate, and, if possible, rectify the situation.

In researching the issue, the OTR discovered that language in a Forest Service regulation (36 CFR Part 211) was responsible for the problem. A provision of the regulation required “non-government cooperators” to secure performance bonds for agreements over $25,000. Whether by oversight or original intent, Tribes had been excluded from the definition of governmental entities and, as a result, were considered non-governmental cooperators for the purposes of the regulation.

OTR staff members worked with the Forest Service Grants and Agreements Staff to make the appropriate revision. The revised regulation, published in the Federal Register at 73 FR 62443, now includes federally recognized Tribes in the list of governmental cooperators, thus eliminating the previous bonding requirement.

If you have any questions, please contact Ken Kessler, OTR, at (202) 205-4972 or

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Forestry and Wildland Fire Small Business Training

By Faline Haven, OTR Management Analyst, and Amy Gowan, Partnership Specialist, Fremont- Winema National Forest

In September 2005, the U.S. Forest Service and the Society of American Foresters (SAF) entered into a participating agreement to build capacity of American Indians and Alaskan Natives for forest restoration contracting activities. Two modules were developed and delivered, Forest Restoration Skills and Small Business Training. In response to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and its implications for potential partnership and contracting opportunities between Tribes with the Forest Service, the training was revived this year.

Klamath tribal members Paul Jackson and Richard Harrington participate in the Forestry and Wildland Fire Small Business Training
Klamath tribal members Paul Jackson and Richard Harrington participate in the Forestry and Wildland Fire Small Business Training.

In April 2009, the Salish and Kootenai College (SKC) Forestry Program Instructors Adrian Leighton and Rob Kenning agreed to teach the Forest Restoration Skills training for the Klamath Tribes. The SKC used and modified the existing curriculum for site-specific training. On June 8-12, 2009, the Fremont-Winema National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service’s Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), Oregon State University, SKC, and the Klamath Tribes completed the first training. This training was designed specifically to assist the Klamath Tribes in developing a Native American small business that specializes in forestry and Wildland fire contract work for the Forest Service. The resulting four-day course included basic forestry terminology, restoration principles and implementation, thinning and hazard fuel reduction, biomass applications, introduction to Wildland fire, and contracting with the Forest Service. The training was a combination of classroom instruction, demonstrations, and field exercises that incorporate the use of applicable Forest Service standards and prescriptions included in Forest Service contracts.

As part of an intertribal partnership, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs sent Luther Clements of the Tribe’s Assistant Fire Management Operations to assist in the training. Clements introduced the Klamath participants to topics such as wildland fire terminology, training and certification, crew development and sponsorship, and contract crew opportunities. He also gave an entertaining overview of tribal fire crew development and recalled anecdotes about the camaraderie and friendships that are such an important part of effective fire crews.

Thirty-two Klamath Tribal Members attended the training. The skill level of the participants was varied including some with forestry and field experience, some with experience in heavy equipment operation, and some with no previous field experience.

To begin planning and development of future trainings, the OTR staff has been collaborating with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildland Fire Management, the National Interagency Fire Center Training Division, USDA Rural Development, Indian Development Resources Solutions, and the Intertribal Timber Council, as well as with several other Forest Service programs.

If you are interested in seeing this training offered in your region, please contact Faline Haven in the Office of Tribal Relations at (202) 205-1520 or at

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New U.S. Forest Service Tribal Relations Managers

Eastern Region - Larry Heady

The new Tribal Relations Program Manager for the Eastern Region (Region 9), Larry Heady has worked in that Region before, serving as Patrol Captain for National Forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin for five years. Prior to that assignment, Larry worked in law enforcement and in natural resources in Regions 1, 2, 5, 6 and 10. He worked as a forester for the Nez Perce Tribe and private industry prior to joining the Forest Service. Most recently, Larry has worked in Central Arizona, where he served as the Patrol Captain (SLEO) on two National Forests. Larry has worked with tribal interests throughout these many assignments.

Larry follows Donna Falcon, who retired in April. Larry is an enrolled member of the Delaware (Lenape) Tribe and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Larry and his wife Christine have five children and five grandchildren. Two of his sons have served in Special Forces and one is leaving soon to serve in the Middle East.

Northern Region - Cheryl Vanderburg

The new Tribal Relations Program Manager for the Northern Region (Region 1), Cheryl Vanderburg earned Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Political Science and Native American Studies from the University of Montana. Cheryl is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes with ancestry that includes the Nez Perce of Idaho and Cherokee of Oklahoma. Cheryl is originally from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and moved to Montana from Dallas, Texas.

Upon graduation from the University of Montana, she went to work for the Forest Service. Cheryl has over 20 years of experience as a public affairs specialist with the Forest Service serving as a Forest Public Affairs Officer for the Lolo National Forest. During her career, she has also served as Coordinator of Missoula Area Visitor Information Services for the Lolo National Forest Supervisors Office, Missoula Ranger District, Northern Region Office, and Smoke Jumper Visitor Center. She most recently served as the Property Management Officer for the Western Montana Acquisition Zone, with oversight over personal and real property for the Lolo, Bitterroot, and Flathead National Forests.

Her true joy in life is spending time with Carl (Anderson) and children Preston and Darbi.

Pacific Southwest Region - Merv George

Merv George is the new Tribal Relations Program Manager for the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5). He accepted the position in December 2008. An enrolled member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe who also has Karuk ancestry, Merv is a former Tribal Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Council Member for the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

Prior to working with the Forest Service, he spent the past nine years working as the Executive Director for the California Indian Forest & Fire Management Council and as the Administrator for the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission. In addition, Merv has served on a number of Boards and Committees including the California Indian Legal Services Inter-Governmental Advisory Committee, Hoopa Valley Gaming Commission, Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association, Hoopa Valley Youth Cheer and Football, and Dream Quest Youth Partnership. He also has performed contract work for the California Indian Basketweavers Association and Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.

Merv is a graduate of Humboldt State University, earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Native American Studies in 1997. He also completed the Indian Teacher Education and Personnel Program at Humboldt State in 1996. Merv and his wife Wendy (also enrolled Hoopa Valley Tribe) have four children: Pateisha (age 17), Deja (age 14), Merv III (age 12), and Evelyn (age 10).

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This periodic report provides Agencies and partners an update of National Forest Service Tribal Relations issues, projects, and activities. The information contained within this report is public information and may be shared with members of the public and other interested parties. For further questions and inquiries, please contact Fred Clark at, and at (202) 205-1514.

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