“Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove … even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.”
This message is a reminder of Tribes’ deep respect for the land and sea and the interconnectedness of living things—a respect that is demonstrated by the important work Tribes are undertaking to protect, enhance, and restore the natural environment.
As climate change brings more frequent droughts, worsening wildfires, and rising sea levels, Tribes across Washington manage natural resources and solve problems at the ecosystem level to sustain and protect the environment and resources for many generations to come.
In recognition of Earth Day 2022, here are just a few examples of the vital work Tribes are doing to restore and protect the Earth:
Yakama Forest Management
The Yakama Nation’s 1.4 million-acre reservation includes 650,000 acres of forest and woodlands, which provide water, food, medicine, spiritual values, employment, and revenue for the Yakama People. The benefits of these lands can’t be taken for granted and Yakama Nation leaders are rising to the challenge of climate change and taking a strategic approach to forest management. The Yakama Nation is involved in several forest management collaborations, including the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, a partnership of five major land managers—the Yakama Nation, the Nature Conservancy, the US Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The Collaborative works in the Central Washington Cascades to coordinate, fund, and implement restoration projects and create a resilient forest ecosystem.
Climate change has brought more frequent and intense flooding to the Quileute Tribe’s reservation, located on the Washington coast, at the mouth of the Quillayute River. Without intervention, the river threatens to change course and wipe out the village of La Push and most other tribal lands, including the traditional fishing area known as Thunder Field. The Quileute Tribe is working to restore the Quillayute River to protect its lands and the salmon species that rely on the Quillayute River. The Tribe’s restoration efforts rely on green infrastructure techniques, including planting more trees and native plants along the river and introducing engineered logjams to help trap sediment and create cold water pools for adult fish to spawn and young fry to hide. Logjams also slow the river’s flow, allowing the groundwater to recharge. These efforts not only protect the environment but may also protect people’s lives.
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s Climate Change Initiative was established in response to the significant threats that climate change poses to the Swinomish reservation. The Initiative directs tribal departments and staff to undertake studies and promote efforts focused on long-term proactive action against climate change impacts like storm surges, flooding, erosion from wind and wave actions, and impacts to tribal fisheries resources. The Tribe’s adaptation actions are addressing climate impacts like inundation of tidelands, shellfish beds, loss of spawning habitat, changes to wetland/estuary habitat, changes in wildlife forage resources, and culvert failure, among others. The Tribe has also developed a set of community-wide Indigenous health indicators to gauge progress.
Before and after: Swinomish tideland structures and restored beach area after structure removal (Photo credit: Swinomish Climate Change Initiative)
Washington Tribes, the public education program that publishes this newsletter, is sponsored by the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA). What is WIGA? We’re glad you asked!
WIGA is a non-profit organization of tribal government leaders of federally recognized Tribes in the state of Washington. As a trade organization, WIGA’s purpose is to:
Educate the public about issues related to gaming in Indian Country;
Advocate on behalf of Washington’s Indian gaming community and promote effective relationships between Tribes and the state of Washington;
Promote, protect, and preserve the welfare and interests of Tribes through the development of sound gaming policies and practices.
Learn more about WIGA and the benefits of tribal gaming to Washington’s economy and to both native and non-native communities across the state on our website, or check out the video below.
Video: Benefits of Tribal Gaming in Washington
Tribes Support Responsible Gaming
Tribes are encouraging healthy lifestyles and working on multiple fronts to proactively address problem gambling. In March, the Tulalip Tribe’s Tulalip News published a series called Walking Through My Story, which featured Tulalip Problem Gambling Program participants sharing their recovery journeys in honor of Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
The stories in this series provided a personal and in-depth look at what it’s like to experience addiction and be in recovery. For each participant, the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program has been a lifeline. Jessica D. explains, “It’s important to make other people realize that there is hope out there and there is help. I know that I would not be here without the Problem Gambling Program today. I tell everyone that it saved my life.”
Visit the Tulalip News website to read Jessica’s story, then click through the posts to read more.
Social Media Highlight
Here’s one of our favorite recent Facebook posts (visit Washington Tribes on Facebook to read the whole post and see what else we’ve shared lately).