Food for Thought: How Tribes Are Sustaining Wildlife Through Food Sovereignty

ROOM: HCCC, Room 22
In the modern era of Tribal sovereignty, Native Americans are working hard to reclaim their traditions and relationships with the natural world. This symposium is meant to help educate wildlife professionals on the intersectionality of food sovereignty and the role of wildlife. By recognizing these efforts for conservation and adaptive management, community members, scholars, and professionals can help overcome conflicts and facilitate diverse collaborations aimed at inclusion and positive growth in rebuilding Native Nations.

1:10PM Supporting Indigenous Research Methodologies
  Celina Gray
1:30PM Tribal Food Sovereignty in the Lake States Region
  Kyle Whyte (Potawatomi)
This presentation will discuss several approaches to how Indigenous peoples are engaging in conservation efforts in North America. While some approaches to conservation ignore the importance of culture and history, Indigenous approaches are often different. Indigenous conservation often involves recognition of relationships between human culture and ecosystems and seeks to address some of the most trenchant environmental justice issues. The presentation will cover examples including sturgeon restoration, wild rice protection and pollution abatement in the Great Lakes region. The approaches and examples come from the presenter’s experiences and work as well as from a recent project to better organize and build awareness of diverse literatures in Indigenous environmental studies.
1:50PM Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative
  Kai-t L. Blue-Sky
Climate Change Adaptation: Implementation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Natural Resource in the Indigenous Community of Cochiti Pueblo. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is understood as, evolving knowledge acquired by indigenous and local peoples over hundreds of thousands of years through direct contact with the environment. The incorporation of indigenous philosophical world view is paramount to understanding the perspective of communities and their relationship to the environment. Knowledge shared by community members relative to the environment reflects the lessons learned through time and are passed down through a cultural calendar. This formulates the gifts of knowledge as they relate to land, language, way of life, laws and customs, governance, family and community. These ideas on life are further validated throughout cyclic ceremonial calendar and reaffirm the core values of love, respect, compassion, faith, spirituality, balance, peace and empathy. Cochiti Pueblo Department of Natural Resources has been tasked with numerous duties relative to environmental impacts and impositions from outside entities such as water rights, watershed management, water allocation and water contamination. Wildfires have had major impacts to Cochiti Pueblo through flooding, sediment load and contamination from up river communities. Cross training with a multitude of governmental and non-governmental agencies has afforded working relationships to foster mutual agreements for projects that have common goals and aspirations relative to landscape and watershed management. Wildlife have been instrumental to addressing landscape and watershed management as jurisdictional boundaries of ancestral domain are explored for cooperation and mutual aspirations. Reintroduction efforts of culturally significant wildlife species has been instrumental to developing management concepts and exploring the philosophy of traditional ecological knowledge, while intricately entwining deductive logic and reasoning of western science.
2:10PM Honorable Huckleberry Harvesting with Ursids in Mind
  Celina Gray (Chippewa/Cree, Blackfeet); Janene Lichtenberg; Antony Berthelote
Huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) facilitate important ecological relationships for Native Americans within the Flathead Indian Reservation of Montana and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Huckleberries provide cultural resources such as traditional foods and customs, social elements and economic products. Huckleberries are also an important food source for bears, another culturally important animal for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) along with many other Native American Tribes. Phenological data on huckleberries is extremely limited, the opportunity for traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to be utilized in order to expand knowledge was a key focus for this project. To gain a better understanding of the role that huckleberries play in cultural and ecological networks, ecological characteristics of huckleberries across a range of habitats on the reservation were examined in addition to interviews with tribal elders about historic and modern use of huckleberries. Recorded phenology data at 10 sites at different elevations across the reservation was used to develop a baseline understanding of the time of flowering and berry production. We evaluated the relationship between site productivity of huckleberries and sugar content (measured in brix%) of berries at peak ripeness and compared those metrics with bear use, measured by the amount of bear sign at each site. Bear sign was most prevalent at the more remote locations with higher brix% (R2=0.82, p=0.012) and plentiful berries. Finally, community interviews were conducted with adult tribal members about the importance of huckleberries for the tribal community and the people’s understanding of the niche bears maintain concerning huckleberries. This research contributes to collaborative studies in Northwest Montana focusing on huckleberries as a food source for bears in the face of climate change, as well as supporting CSKT in asserting traditional food sovereignty.
2:30PM Panel Discussion
2:30PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Bison Restoration on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming: Cultural Revitalization & Ecological Restoration.
  Jason Baldes
As a keystone species, bison support many other organisms including plants, animals, insects and birds. Their unique dust-bathing behavior create wallow-like depressions (WLDs), altering the landscape at the local level, and are believed to increase water accumulation and support different plant species in the surrounding area. Native Americans traditionally accessed forb plants as foods tools and medicines, which are believed to increase in wallows, and in the wallow like depressions (WLDs) studied in this project. As bison reintroduction might impact plant biodiversity, this study gathered baseline data of cultural plant frequency inside vs. outside 65 WLD locations. Thirty-three plants were associated with WLDs, 11 plants contained sufficient data for comparison, and five plant species had a statistically significant difference in frequency using a paired t-test. Three cultural plants were shown to have greater frequency inside WLDs vs. non-WLDs. This baseline data will potentially be used to monitor changes to the landscape after bison are restored to the WRIR. Multiple tribes are maneuvering the political arena to acquire bison and the process is complex. Federal, tribal, state, and local agencies all vie for a say in management of genetically pure bison of Yellowstone National Park. Tribes are restoring bison and forming coalitions and international treaties to share and restore herds on tribal lands. The Fort Peck Tribes of Montana are re-acquiring land to allocate to their cultural herd of Yellowstone bison and lead the way in becoming a new tribally operated quarantine facility for excess Yellowstone bison. Tribal bison policy and acquisition is an exercise in tribal self-determination and will be a way for tribes to implement programs for cultural and ecological restoration in the coming years.
3:40PM Harvesting Wild Game as a Form of Maintaining Culture and Food Sovereignty among Native American Tribes
  Chase Voirin (Navajo)
The harvest of wild game has been a pivotal practice among Native American tribes not only as a form of maintaining physical sustenance, but also as a way of maintaining cultural identity. While the basic act of this harvesting practice has continued, the significance of it has evolved into a method for tribes to instill their sovereign rights for the continued use of wild game resources on historic tribal lands. Understanding that the harvest is in itself a cultural practice, and identifying how certain wildlife species fit into a tribe’s cultural identity is paramount in better understanding a given tribe’s view regarding wildlife conservation. The evolution of the significance behind harvesting wild game among tribes has played an integral role in shaping tribal fish and wildlife programs. And while quantifiable data are sparse regarding the demographics of Native Americans who hunt and the number of specific types of species that are harvested and used for cultural purposes, qualitative data do exist regarding what species are used in cultural practices as well as how those practices shape current tribal conservation and management goals. Much of these data may be unknown to non-tribal natural resource agencies, therefore a greater understanding of these data may improve collaborative efforts among tribal and non-tribal fish and wildlife agencies to enhance successful wildlife conservation endeavors.
4:00PM Oglala Lakota Traditional Food, Plants, and Wildlife
  Cami Griffith
The Oglala Lakota are a nomadic, hunter, gather society that ranged though much of the Great Plains.The nomadic lifestyle and harsh weather required maximum preservation, accessibility, and portability all while demanding high nutritional value. Over innumerable generations these aspects were refined to allow the people to thrive. Because of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, the range of movement became restricted, and food gathering limited. Regardless, the culture has persevered, and traditional staple foods continue to be an essential part of the health of the people and cultural preservation. Oral knowledge in the form of stories are used to maintain traditional knowledge integrity and give insight into sustainable practices of food gathering and hunting. Included will be an overview of staple foods in the Great Plains, oral stories that are associated, and traditional foods that are common today. For example, Wasna, is a mixture of bison and berry’s, and is particularly beneficial for a nomadic lifestyle. It is healthy, and a common food item today. When considering food sovereignty of the future, one must also consider the traditions of the past.
4:20PM Importance of Mule Deer to Pueblo Communities: A Culturally Significant Species
  Daniel Bird (Santo Domingo Pueblo)
The power of place, and time, allows for our understanding of the surrounding environment from our creation. Our understanding of the environment gives us our cultural perspective of our relationships we share with the world. Our perspective of the world formulates the relevance of traditional ecological knowledge in natural resource management including the management of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), a culturally significant species to pueblo tribal communities in the southwest, US. The importance of mule deer as a material and spiritual resource reverberates from our historical use as food, and interactions. There are major differences in the philosophical management views of mule deer such as harvesting for trophy, versus harvesting for cultural sustenance. Dominant American society and Native American tribes share the common interests in the perpetuation of sustaining healthy and robust mule deer populations. Reasons mule deer are a culturally significant species to pueblo communities are through stories of our interactions, by gaining knowledge of their behavior, and utilization of materials the animal provides (e.g. hooves, antlers, hide, bones). Knowledge of their behavior that is learned through observation gives us understanding of synchrony of ecological systems. The research and study using modern western science by native peoples allows for tribal communities to better understand and manage for culturally significant species like mule deer as a way of sustaining healthy populations and pueblo culture.
4:40PM Historical Trauma to Cultural Preservation: Genetic Health of Bison on the Pine Ridge Reservation
  Tada Vargas (Oglala Lakota); Shane Sarver; Alessandra Higa
Prior to the 1800s, bison (Bison bison) roamed a majority of the North American landmass from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains and as far north as Canada to as far south to Texas. Their population ranged between 30 to 60 million (McHugh 1972, Flores 1991). In a short 80-year period, their species faced extinction when their population plummeted to a few hundred. When it became imminent their existence was threatened, it was aggressively promoted to breed bison with cattle (Bos taurus). This multi-year study assessed the presence of cattle introgression in the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s bison. Using hair follicles, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA was extracted and analyzed, through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based assays. Preliminary analysis determined no evidence of maternal inherited cattle introgression in 900 individuals. A subset group of 336 individuals were analyzed for paternally inherited cattle introgression. Using an 18-panel microsatellite assay and genotyping analysis, nuclear DNA indicated introgression in 47 of 336 (14%) individuals. Although, cattle introgression appears to be manageable, explorative results indicate the population has low genetic diversity. Genotypical data is being investigated using the genetic software programs, Genepop and Geneiex, to identify the genetic health. This study emphasizes the significance of genetic analysis for interspecies introgression, wildlife population management, and species conservation. Detailed genomic knowledge is beneficial in developing strategies to best meet management goals of restoring genetic health in populations. Furthermore, bison play an integral role in the well-being of First Nations people. According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the North American bison population is approximately 500,000. However, only 30,000 of those individuals are owned by 63 Tribal Nations collectively, as reported by the Intertribal Buffalo Council. Additionally, this project promotes the importance of working collaboratively with Tribal Nations for the well-being and longevity of the buffalo nation.

Organizers: Celina Gray (Little Shell Chippewa & Blackfeet),Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, MT; Serra Hoagland (Laguna Pueblo),U.S.F.S/ Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, MT; Chase Voirin (Navajo ), University of Arizona, Rio Rancho, NM; Daniel Bird (Santo Domingo Pueblo), Purdue UniversityLafayette, IN; Laura Lagunez (Navajo),Cornell University, Ithica, NY
Supported by: TWS Native People’s Wildlife Management Working Group

Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 8, 2018 Time: 12:50 pm - 5:00 pm