Day 12

August 8, 2014

Today we met with Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan, the Director of Air Quality. She told us about the Midnite Mine Superfund Site, and the struggles the tribe has gone through to get the Newmont Mining Company to pay for cleaning up the mess they left behind. The Midnite Mine, along with the Sherwood Mine and the Dawn Mill Processing Plant, were all part of a uranium mining operation that ran from 1955 until 1981. After uranium prices dropped sharply, the company abandoned their facilities, even leaving raw ore stockpiles behind. After over 30 years, the Newmont Mining Company has been forced by the EPA to develop and pay for a clean up plan that will deal with the ore and slag piles, fill in the holes, and divert rain water away from the site, and also treat the uranium and heavy metal polluted waters before releasing them into the Spokane River.

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Then, we had an opportunity to meet with George Hill, a sculptor and painter who attended the Institute of American Indian Art. He carved several sculptures which are on display at the school, and has gone to art shows throughout the country.

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Our trip has almost come to a close. Tomorrow, we will have a goodbye salmon feast with our Spokane hosts, and then we will be returning home! It has been an amazing adventure, and we have all learned a tremendous amount about science, the environment, policy and law, and the cultures of the tribes we have visited.

Day 11

August 8, 2014

We returned to the high school again to learn more about the cultural preservation and forest management aspects of the department of natural resources. We met with Jimbo Seyler, the tribe’s Historic Preservation Officer. He showed us pictures of some of the structures the Spokane used to build, like pit houses and fish weirs. We had an opportunity to visit a modern pit house which has been constructed on the grounds of the school for use during their Culture Week celebrations.

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Then we visited three different timber stands which have been managed in different ways, and learned a little bit about the process the tribe goes through whenever a timber stand comes up for logging. The first stand we visited had gone through a traditional selective logging. Loggers removed some of the larger, more valuable trees, along with any tree which will not survive the 20-25 years until the unit comes up in rotation again. In the second stand, the loggers thinned out everything except Tamarack Pines, and left a 10-15 foot space between each tree, trying to allow the valuable Tamaracks to grow bigger. That stand also went through a prescribed underburn in order to prevent new trees from establishing themselves. The third stand had to be clear cut because of a break out of root rot, and was replanted with a variety of different trees in order to promote healthy habitat for animals, and biodiversity to prevent the spreading of pests and diseases.

The Spokane use an integrated land management plan for all projects, which means that all sections of the Department of Natural Resources must tour a site and make a report to tribal council on the impacts of the project on their particular area, and give recommendations on how to proceed. Someone from the forestry, wildlife, fisheries, water quality, air quality, fire, and culture division will tour each site, giving feedback on how the project will affect what they are charged with protecting. This process, while time consuming, helps them manage the land better from all the various aspects which are important to them.

After touring the timber stands, we returned to McCoy Creek and toured the old dairy which used to stand there. The dairy and surrounding farm land have been turned into a wildlife refuge. Corn, oats, barley, and native crops have been planted to provide food for large game like deer, elk, and moose to eat in the winter.

Day 10

August 8, 2014

We started the day at the High School, and were introduced to a number of people from the Department of Natural Resources. We learned a little bit about the history of the tribe, and how they shifted from fishing to big game hunting after the cut off the salmon in the 1930s. Several people from the wildlife and forestry departments talked to us about how they are managing their deer, elk, and moose populations, and the habitat for those big game animals.

We talked with Ryan Crosley, the manager of water resources, who explained a little bit about what they are doing to manage aquatic habitat for fish. Then we joined him on a project to transplant fish from Tshimikan Creek into McCoy Creek, an isolated creek which has undergone major restoration after almost a century of being diverted for irrigation.

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All the students wore rubber waders or boots, and one of them carried the fish shocker; a device attached to a back pack which sends an electrical current down a metal wand and stuns the fish. Then, students with nets followed behind and scooped the fish up, transferring them to buckets and ultimately, an insulated tank on the back of a pickup truck. Then, we drove over to McCoy Creek, and released the fish, where they will hopefully help repopulate the creek.

Day 9

August 8, 2014

On Day 9, we packed up the vans and headed to our final destination; the Spokane Reservation. After a few brief stops for fresh fruits and veggies, lunch, and a few minor van troubles, we made it to Wellpinit High School, and were introduced to Warren Seyler, who works in the Department of Natural Resources. He gave us a tour of their beautifully renovated High School. IMAG0867IMAG0868

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Then, we went to the Pow-Wow grounds to set up camp, make some dinner, and head to bed early in preparation for a big day!

Day 8

August 8, 2014

We started Day 8 by visiting the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, located right next to the Wildhorse Resort. The Cultural Institute is a museum and artifact repository for preserving and teaching about the culture of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. The museum has excellent exhibits on the past, present, and future of the tribes.

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After touring the museum, we met up with Wenix Red Elk, who gave a presentation on the CTUIR’s First Food Initiative, which works to protect the water, fish, game, roots, and berries that made up the traditional diet of the tribe.

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After the presentation, we went back to the Red Elk residence and had a big barbeque, with hamburgers, hot dogs, frybread, and roasted corn. Yum!

Day 7

August 7, 2014

Most of this day was spent packing up camp and driving from the Deschutes National Forest to the Umatilla Reservation. We arrived at the home of Wenix Red Elk and her mother, Loveda Elk. Mrs. Elk is a very skilled glass artist, and did a studio session with us to teach us how to make fused glass plates.

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She started by teaching us about glass, and how glass behaves as both a solid, and as a liquid when it is fired. Then, she helped each of us design and fire our own fused glass plates. Many of them were still in the kiln when we left on Tuesday, but we are all excited to see how our plates turned out as soon as they are mailed to Heritage!

 

Day 6

August 7, 2014

Day 6 was a nice, calm day to rest and relax before our drive to the Umatilla Reservation. We had a big breakfast, showered, did laundry, and then our cultural guide Cia taught us how to bead buckskin pouches.

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Day 5

August 7, 2014

We spent day 5 with the forest service again, talking about a variety of subjects. First we went to a site where they had done a prescribed burn, and talked to a firefighter about the ways in which the forest service is returning fire to the environment in order to keep it healthy, and prevent large wildfires. Then we went back to the river to a day use site, and spoke to two recreation managers about how they balance the need to get people out into the wilderness with the need to keep it safe and protected. Then, after a short hike, we came to another set of beautiful falls.

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Day 4

July 31, 2014

Today was our first day in the Deschutes National Forest. We spent the day working with the Forest Service on a stream site which has undergone major restoration. The area was ravaged by a major forest fire in the 70s, and the subsequent salvage logging removed nearly all the vegetation in the area. The next 25 years saw major erosion of the stream banks, until a stream restoration project returned it to a healthier state. We pulled knapweed, which is an invasive species, and lodgepole pine saplings, which have dominated over the other tree species.

 

To cap off the day, we took a short hike to the top of Tumalo Falls, and saw a gorgeous view of the top of the falls, and the surrounding area.

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Tomorrow, we have another busy day planned with the Forest Service!

Day 3

July 30, 2014

Today was a less active day. We started out at The Museum at Warm Springs, which has excellent exhibits on the culture, history, and art of the three tribes of the Warm Springs reservation. We had the opportunity to hear an elder, Arlita Rhoan, speak to us about childhood on the reservation in the 1940s, and her work teaching Ichishkiin to the younger generations.

Then we returned to the Department of Natural Resources for more information on how they are handling the wild horse population. In 2011, Congress commissioned an investigation of how the defunding of USDA inspections for horse slaughtering facilities had affected horse populations. We saw the powerpoint presentation which the Warm Springs delegate gave on the effects the growing wild horse population is having on their rangelands, streams, and native species. While there are programs in place on Warm Springs and other reservations to sterilize horses so they don’t breed, horse populations have risen above the sustainable carrying capacity, and without slaughter facilities, they are in a bind as to what to do. There is a possibility of the restriction on federal funds for horse slaughter facilities will not be renewed, and will expire in September, but if this doesn’t happen, the Warm Springs are looking into the possibility of opening their own slaughterhouse on the reservation in order to circumvent the ban.

We are shortly leaving Warm Springs, and on our way to the Deschutes National Forest. Internet access will be spotty, so it may be a few days until the next blog post.