Tulalip Tribes forge partnership with Forest Service
Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Supervisor Rob Iwamoto have signed an agreement to protect cultural resources and tribal access to forest lands for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.
“The area within Mount Baker and Snoqualmie National Forest are traditional lands where we and our ancestors have been for thousands of years – fishing, hunting, gathering herbs, medicines and food and visiting for ceremonial and spiritual purposes,” said Sheldon. “It is important for us to work with the Forest Service to provide stewardship for these natural resources that serve as a critical link to our past and a means to sustain and nurture our culture in the future,” he continued.
The memorandum of agreement (MOA) lays out a framework for increased communication and collaboration in areas such as planning, policy making, management activities and sharing of technical expertise and data, to provide stewardship and conserve the natural resources that the Tribes value and depend upon.
“There are plenty of things that are of interest to both parties,” said Iwamoto. “We want to make sure we continue to have clean water, clean air, wildlife, forest products and fisheries. The Forest Service doesn’t have the resources we’ve had in the past so I’d love to see the Tribes participate with us. We want to try to integrate tribal interests and needs into project planning, and start collaborative efforts to work on areas of mutual interest.”
The MOA completes a four-year effort involving the U.S. Forest Service and the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, Forestry, Legal, and Police Departments.
Natural Resources Director Danny Simpson said although the document took years to create, it is just a beginning. “A lot of effort went into this agreement, but this is not the end,” said Simpson. “Like any other agreement, we won’t get to the fruits of it without a lot of hard work.”
“This document is going to have a very meaningful and historical significance,” said Tulalip Tribes Cultural Resources Manager Hank Gobin. “We’re talking about cultural sustainability. We all have a common interest in protecting and enhancing the natural environment. This opens communications that will assist the Tribe and tribal people in accessing valuable resources and information.”
Some of the long-term goals for Tulalip include better access for tribal members to usual and accustomed hunting and gathering areas.
Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Policy Analyst Libby Halpin Nelson said, “I see potential for having tribal youth camps in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest – maybe places where our elders can teach kids about what happens in the forest, and cultural camps where all our youth can relearn about the traditional uses of those areas.”