Enduring Legacies Native Case Studies

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Environmental Restoration


New!The Navajo Horse Policy Dilemma: Too Many Horses? T’ooahayoo Nihilii?

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff, PhD

Wild horses have long been a symbol of the West. For Dine people on the Navajo Reservation, horses are at the center of multiple relationships for healing, cultural meanings and practical use. Today, the lines between wild horses and feral horses are blurred in federal policy and in tribal policy as horse populations seem to be growing. The numbers for the Navajo Reservation are unusually high, and tribal leaders have tried several policies. Policy fragmentation, lack of credible numbers, and unknown genetic and physical impacts to herds from removing horses create significant challenges for tribal leaders. Recent attempts to create partnership hold promise, but the way forward remains unclear and new strategies will need to be forged.

New!Darkness to Dawn: Columbia River Native Tribes’ Science and Salmon Restoration Success

Author:Brian Footen

From the start of its 1243 mile journey in the Canadian Rockies all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River drains the heart, soul and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. In this water is a history of a river and people that goes back 15,000 years. The bountiful water has supplied the world with food and energy. The development of the river for hydro-power and irrigation has played a critical role in modern history. This development, however, has come at great cost to the original inhabitants of the area and the primary resource that they thrived on: the salmon. The Nez Perce, NiMiiPuu, lived in the Columbia River basin for thousands of years. This existence was altered by the arrival of European settlers, and in 1855, the Nez Perce signed a treaty that defined an area over which they had jurisdiction and rights to the resources, including salmon, vital to their culture and survival. Since then salmon populations have declined. Dams and the resulting habitat degradation have had negative impacts on salmon survival. Some populations have been listed as endangered, and policies regarding how these fish are treated have complicated the recovery process. Recent efforts by the Nez Perce tribe, however, have shown that in spite of a mechanized river and political resistance, the river still has enough bounty to bring back a salmon run that was nearly extinct.

New!Your Tribal Land is Not Secure: Traditional Knowledge and Science Face Wildfire in the Valley of the Wild Roses

Author:Linda Moon Stumpff, PhD

Through the discussion of two tribal college students, this case begins an exploration of vulnerability and resilience after repeated and devastating fires as a result of drought and climate change at Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. The Pueblo holds a rich store of traditional knowledge about the fire-prone ecosystems. This knowledge contributes to restoration efforts after a series of high-severity fires in the Jemez Mountains. Forested lands and wilderness shrines are lost, Santa Clara Creek and watershed suffer from erosion, and much of the Pueblo’s protected lands burned along with Pueblo archeological and cultural sites on public lands. Long ago, the Pueblo created a three zone management system that preserved the upper wild lands as a sacred source of water, protected the middle creek as an ancestral home, and created a homeland supported by sustainable agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley. Deep interviews and discussions with key tribal and western scientists provided sources for a case that explores how western science and Pueblo wisdom converge in interactions to restore around the Pueblo lands model.

New!The Yakama Nation and the Cleanup of Hanford: Contested Meanings of Environmental Remediation

Author:Daniel A. Bush

In 1988 the former Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington was designated a Superfund site, and the federal government assumed the responsibility to clean the area of contaminants and toxic waste and make it safe for human use. This case investigates the complex relationship of Native Americans to that cleanup effort. More specifically it looks at the role of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in the cleanup process, and while doing so raises questions about environmental security, justice and ethics, contested concepts of the cleanup and its aftermath, and severe challenges regarding treaty rights and obligations.

Co-Management of Puget Sound Salmon: How well does the Use and Collection of Shared Fishery Science between Tribes and the State Guide Resource Protection?

Author:Brian Footen

The history of salmon management in the Pacific Northwest is complex. Indigenous management of fisheries was partially incorporated into treaties but it took nearly 100 years for a legal framework for implementing the fisheries components of the treaties to be put into place. The restoration of Northwest Treaty Tribes fishing rights brought Native people the difficult task of working directly with the institution that had prosecuted treaty violations and discriminated against tribal fishers. The ability of the State and Tribes to work together to “co-manage” salmon stocks has improved over the years and has been spelled out in additional court decisions. However, difficulties still arise from institutional holdover views about tribal fishing rights and the belief that the State still has the overriding authority in resource management decisions. In addition, management objectives do not always mesh with the historic or contemporary cultural needs of tribal fishers.

New!Pebbles of Gold or Salmon of Time: Pebble Mine and the Cultural and Environmental Economics of Alaska Natives

Author:Brian Footen

Alaska’s Bristol Bay is home to the most productive salmon runs in the world. For over 9,000 years, the indigenous people of the region have survived because of the salmon. In 2005 the Pebble Mine Project was proposed by the Pebble Partnership (PLP). The project proposal is to extract massive deposits of copper, gold and other minerals from the mountains making up the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The proposal has polarized people within the Native communities of the region. This case explores the trade off that is often made when jobs and profit are pitted against environmental protection.

Native Fishing Practices and Oxygen Depletion in Hood Canal

Author:Cole, Robert S.

This case examines the contribution of dumping chum salmon carcasses into Hood Canal to the lowering of dissolved oxygen in the Canal. A report by the Puget Sound Action Team and the Hood Canal Coordinating Council studied the contribution of different factors to low dissolved oxygen levels in Hood Canal. This report presented the Skokomish Tribal Nation with a potential public relations issue regarding their traditional practices of dumping the chum salmon carcasses into the Canal. Students are challenged to discuss recommendations about what actions the Skokomish Nation should take based upon the findings of the report, upon issues of economic impact on tribal fishers, and upon issues of equity in addressing environmental problems.

New!Back to the Future: Dam Removal and Native Salmon Restoration on the Elwha River

Author:Brian Footen and Jovana Brown

Dams on the Elwha River in Washington State have blocked salmon migration for one hundred years. These dams are now being removed. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe is looking forward to having its treaty rights to fish from the Elwha River restored. This case examines two approaches for restoring harvestable, viable, and self-sustaining salmon runs to the River.

Dam Removal on the Elwha River

Author:Peter Dorman

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, whose ancestral home is on the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, has made a remarkable recovery from dissolution and poverty, reclaiming tribal status and acquiring land and fishing rights. Critical to this process will be the restoration of salmon runs on the Elwha River, which had been terminated by the building of two dams early in the twentieth century. Among the steps leading to dam removal was a cost-benefit analysis (CBA). This study, which was filed in 1995, forms the centerpiece of this case. Due in part to the CBA’s conclusion that the economic benefits of dam removal would exceed the economic costs, resistance to this precedent-setting decision was overcome. The case centers on an examination of the CBA and the ways it both does and does not incorporate matters of concern to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

The Return of a River: A Nisqually Tribal Challenge

Author:Steve Robinson and Michael Alesko

For thousands of years, the Nisqually River watershed has been home to the Nisqually Indian people. It has provided food in the form of salmon and other fish that filled the waters and shellfish when the tide went out. Deer and other game in the river’s surrounding forests further nurtured the people, enriched by a diet of berries, roots, and herbaceous plants. As described by Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank, Jr’s late father, Willy Frank, Sr. in the movie, As Long As the Rivers Run, it was a “paradise.” The settlers moving in from the 1850s on decided to mold the area into their own version of what they thought a watershed should look like. They diked the estuary area for agricultural purposes, channelized the river in other areas, and greatly altered the natural habitat and the earlier natural balance. But over the past several years, a collective effort involving jurisdictions and neighbors from all vocations and ethnic backgrounds have worked together with the Nisqually Tribe at the helm in a successful effort to return the Nisqually estuary to its natural condition. This case study examines the Tribe’s role as partner and leader in this multi-entity effort. It is a role forged through a combination of cooperative partnerships and litigation reestablishing Northwest tribes’ legitimate place as resource managers.

Pacific Northwest Salmon Habitat: The Culvert Case and the Power of Treaties

Author:Jovana J. Brown, PhD and Brian Footen

American Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest signed treaties with the federal government in the 1850’s that preserved their right to fish in their “usual and accustomed” fishing grounds. The tribes have had to continually fight to have this right recognized. U.S. v. Washington, 1974, the Boldt decision, upheld this fishing right and ruled that the tribes were entitled to 50% of the harvestable portion of salmon returning to their usual and accustomed grounds. Though this historic court decision enabled the Indians to legally fish, the decline of the salmon has meant that the importance of this decision has been eroded. For the last three decades the tribes have worked to preserve salmon runs by protecting and restoring fish habitat. The tribes are in a unique position to advance habitat restoration on a landscape scale. Restoring fish passage in streams throughout the state is an example of how the power of the treaties can facilitate salmon recovery significantly. In 2001, they went into federal district court with a specific habitat lawsuit: the culvert case. The decision in this case has been called the most significant victory for tribal treaty fishing rights since the Boldt decision.

Natural Restoration and Cultural Knowledge of the Yakama Nation

Author:Emily Washines and Gerald Peltier

After a 70 year absence, the wapato (potato) returned to the reservation of The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation).  As a result of agricultural diversion, the water table was lowered and an imbalance in nature occurred.  A shift in nature also contributed to a shift in the cultural foods and plants available.  As students work through Part I of this case they will learn about the Yakama Nation and evaluate eating lifestyles.  Student groups will be assigned one of the key roles of land restoration. Each group will create a storyboard to visually tell the actions of their respective role.  In Part II of the case, students will explore the cultural knowledge of natural restoration and cultural foods.  A video “The Return of the Wapato,” accompanies this case.  This case provides an opportunity to learn how the Yakama Nation restores tribal land areas to historical use and ultimately protects the resources for those not yet born.

Ancestral Roots and Changing Landscapes: The Impact of Seattle's Development on the Salish People of Central Puget Sound

Author:Brian Footen

“No great city on the American continent has overcome so many natural obstacles encountered in its growth.” Clarence Bagley

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, industrial societies throughout the world have marginalized and eventually overtaken aboriginal cultures that had lived for centuries, in many cases thousands of years. Still today in the name of industrial progress landscape alterations like logging and the damming of rivers encroach on the few aboriginal societies left in the world. Over a century and a half ago indigenous cultures of the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest were overwhelmed by the forces of urbanization and industrialization. This case describes the landscape changes made to build the City of Seattle, the impact those changes had on the original inhabitants, and what might now be done for the original inhabitants to live within this radically altered landscape.

Addressing Climate Change at a Tribal Level

Author:Steve Robinson and Michael T. Alesko

A global issue poses particular challenges to indigenous peoples everywhere. How can tribes respond locally?

Global climate change arguably is an overwhelming and unavoidable environmental, social, political and economic issue which is already at a crisis stage and only becoming more so. Indigenous peoples are the first affected and in many cases among the most affected. They also have been among the most vocal proponents of solutions but their advocacies, as these peoples themselves, often are marginalized. This case study begins by examining the macro realities of the global climate change crisis as it pertains to indigenous peoples then segues into a more micro examination of why and how it can be addressed -- and is being addressed -- by Native American tribes, in particular in this case the Swinomish Tribe of Washington State. The Tribe is in the midst of the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative, a two-year project which in its own words is to "assess local impacts, identify vulnerabilities, and prioritize planning areas and actions to address the possible effects of climate change." An action plan and other long-range solution products are to emerge from the effort.

When Our Water Returns: The Gila River Indian Community and Diabetes

Author:Jovana J. Brown

The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) of Arizona has the highest rate of diabetes in the world. Before white settlement of their homeland in central Arizona, their ancestors had an abundant water supply and a flourishing agricultural lifestyle. In the late 19th and early 20th century, non-Indian water use completely cut off their water supply. This depletion led to many years of starvation and then to a diet of highly processed foods that some say is responsible for the obesity and diabetes in the GRIC. After many years of negotiation, a water-rights settlement has been reached to return water to the ownership of the Gila River Indian Community. Research has shown that a diet that resembles the one that their ancestors ate when they were an agricultural people combined with increased physical activity can reduce the rate of obesity and diabetes. Will the return of their water enable the GRIC to return to their past agricultural practices? Can the members of this southern Arizona tribe again raise the kinds of crops as they did in the past? Can their previous healthy lifestyle of generations ago be restored?

River Flow for Riparian Health

Author:Robert S. Cole

For more than eighty years the Skokomish Nation on Hood Canal in Washington State has been in dispute about the diversion of the North Fork of the Skokomish River for a hydroelectric project. The diversion of the North Fork’s flow left no water downstream, which negatively impacted the salmon population that the Skokomish had traditionally fished. The attempts to relicense the two dams on the North Fork resulted in a protracted legal struggle that is still ongoing. However, Tacoma Power (owner of the dams) agreed in March of 2008 to release a fraction of the water that they had been diverting, and agreed to release this water in a constant flow. The manner in which water is released from a dam on a river has a huge impact on the downstream health of the riparian system. This case will examine constant flow and variable flow options for release of water from dam on the North Fork of the Skokomish River. It is a case about making Tribal judgments based on scientific approaches.

The Last Stand: the Quinault Indian Nation's Path to Sovereignty and the Case of Tribal Forestry

Author:Stumpff, Linda Moon

This case tells a story of forestry management policies on the Quinault Reservation. In the early years, the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) and later the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) acted like a landlord, allocating large timber sales to non-Indian timber companies. The Dawes Act fragmented the Quinault Reservation into many small individually owned allotments: the Tribe retained little for the general purpose. Years of mismanagement of Reservation forest lands by the BIA left devastated lands and waters. Legislation and actions by leaders like Joe De La Cruz pushed the envelope to reform the U.S. tribal trust relationship, eventually returning land use decision-making to the Quinault Indian Nation. The Tribe took over planning, timber sales, and decision-making for forestry as they came to work in partnership with the BIA and neighboring agencies. The challenge was great---large areas of the landbase were cut-over. New decisions about forestry management were made to acquire allotted lands and to transfer them into the tribal ownership so they could be restored.