US looks to boost cooperation with tribes on land management

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams says he and other federal officials are committed to boosting the role Native American tribes can play in managing public lands

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 08 March 2022 23:50
Public Lands Tribes
Public Lands Tribes

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said Tuesday he and other officials are committed to boosting the role Native American tribes can play in managing public lands around the U.S.

He told members of a congressional committee during a virtual hearing that part of the effort includes integrating Indigenous knowledge into management plans and recognizing that federal lands once belonged to the tribes.

Sams was questioned about how the National Park Service could use existing authority and recent executive directives issued by top federal officials to make good on the latest round of promises to tribes regarding meaningful consultation and having a seat at the table.

Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla and a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is the first Native American to lead the Park Service. He said education will be a key part of seeing changes on the ground.

“Much of this has been missing from our history books, that understanding that tribes are sovereign,” he said, adding that the federal government has an obligation to ensure that tribal voices are heard.

There currently are four national parks where tribes share co-management responsibilities: Canyon de Chelly National Monument within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in southeast Alaska, Grand Portage National Monument within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Minnesota, and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.

Tribal officials from New Mexico, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest also testified about the importance of including Native American voices when weighing decisions that could impact cultural sites, water supplies or even forest health.

Sams said his agency has about 80 cooperative agreements in place with tribes now and he expects that number to grow.

At Acadia National Park, the Wabanaki Nations of Maine have been involved in a multiyear project focused on traditional gathering of sweetgrass that have resulted from centuries of learned ecological knowledge.

The Nisqually Tribe is working with officials at Mount Rainier National Park to publish a report on plant gathering there. Consultation with the tribe also has resulted in a guide for developing interpretive programs.

Carleton Bowekaty, the lieutenant governor of Zuni Pueblo and a member of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, told lawmakers that tribes in the Southwestern U.S. banded together to protect their mutual interests as part of the fight over the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

While some tribal communities are located hundreds of miles away from the monument, Bowekaty said the area still plays an integral role in traditional practices and ceremonies and that tribes are being asked for their traditional knowledge as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service work on a management plan for the monument.

"What could be a better avenue of restorative justice than giving tribes the opportunity to participate in the management of lands that their ancestors were removed from?” he asked, adding that collaborative problem-solving and a candid exchange of perspectives will be crucial for co-management to work.

Doug Kiel, a citizen of the Oneida Nation and an assistant professor of history at Northwestern University, told the congressional panel about a philosophy of long-term planning that is central to many Native American tribes. He said it centers on what will be in the best interest of people seven generations from now.

Land managers today can learn from thousands of years of history, he said, as the pressures of climate change and global instability mount.

“One important way to think about what it means to incorporate Indigenous thought into these dialogues is to think about depth of time, a different perspective,” he said. “That's a lot of what we're talking about with traditional ecological knowledge.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in