Blogging, Uranium Contamination and Art

Aug - 09 2014 | no comments | By


A day to catch up on our blogs.  Cia and Michael working hard.

landscape Midnight Uranium Mine.

We had a presentation on Environmental Justice from Twale Abrahamson Swan in the morning.  She told us of the problems that the abandonded uranium mines have had on the Spokane Reservation.  The Midnight Mine, Sherwood Mine and the Dawn Mill site are releasing radionuclides, heavy metals into the ground water.  The tribe is going to try to restore the land at the mining sites and reduce the harm to the water system.


Spokane artist George D. Hill explaining one of his paintings.

Local artist and sculptor is a member of the Spokane Tribe.  He attended The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM.  He started with conventional art and now paints mostly abstract Native American themed paintings.  He also does Native American Sculptures, which are on displayed in the high school library.


Spokane History, Forestry and Wildlife

Aug - 09 2014 | no comments | By

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Inside the Pit House.

The morning began with some information of the history of the Spokane Tribe and some pictures of historical structures and sites on the reservation.  There are still remnants of the pit houses that people lived in a long time ago.   The stones can be found lying in a circle on the ground.  Next to the high school, a recreation of a pit house has been built.  The day was hot outside but it was fairly cool inside.


Reduced undergrowth after a controlled burn.

We were later shown the progress their forestry program has had in clear cutting the diseased or insect infected trees and the efforts to use controlled burns to clear out the understory fuel.


Growing corn and grain for the elk.

The tribe has also purchased back farmland, which is being reclaimed by converting it to wetland or is used to grow crops for the deer and elk.  They utilize an existing water wheel irrigation system to grow a field of corn surrounded by oats and barley, which has native grasses grown outside of it. They grow 100 acres of crops is to supplement the elk’s food needs during the winter.  They also grow canola, alfalfa and beets.

Shocking Fish

Aug - 08 2014 | no comments | By

DSCN0840 Chance, the Shocker.DSCN0843 Collecting the fish.DSCN0853Jakob Billy releasing the fish.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

We met at the Welpinit High School for several presentations from the departments in the Spokane Tribes Department of Natural Resources.  We heard from the Wildlife Program and how they give out 50 tags for elk hunting and 20 tags for moose hunting this year.  Wow they have moose!  Unfortunately they don’t have hunting rights outside the reservation boundary.  They also explained how they have had to transition from a mostly fish eating culture to a meat eating culture, due to the building of the dams in the Columbia River.

Later, we went with their fish biologist and some of their interns to shock some fish so they could be transported to another stream.  One of the White Swan students wore the shoking gear, while others netted out the redside shiners, speckled dace and bridge lip suckers.  They were then transported from the Little Tshimikain River to tributary of McCoy Lake.


Travel Day – Off to Welpinit and the Spokane Tribe

Aug - 08 2014 | no comments | By


A quick stop at the wildhorse truck stop before hitting the road.


Miles and miles of wheat filled scenery on the way to Spokane.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We left Pendleton and began our long journey to Welpinit to visit the Spokane Tribe.  The drive was long and took a good portion of the day, but we finally arrived at the Welpinit High School.  There we were greeted by Warren Seyler, who gave us a tour of the school and the pow wow grounds, where we would call home for the next few days.  The pow wow grounds are being renovated and should look pretty nice when they are finished.  Nice school too.


Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Aug - 08 2014 | no comments | By

Tamastslikt Cultural Institute tn

Umatilla Museum


Wind Powered Turbine at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.

Monday August 4, 2014


The class visited the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, the museum of the Umatilla tribe.  The museum preferred that we did not take pictures of the exhibits, so I haven’t any photos of what I enjoyed.  It’s a shame, because the displays had name plates in English and also had the Sahaptin spelling as well.  I wish I could have those to look at later.  The exhibits had old artifacts mixed with some well-made reproductions blended well into the displays.  Upon observing the exhibits, I realized that all the material that the Native Americans used to create everything they used came from the surrounding environment.  They used the rocks, wood, vegetation and animals.  I suppose I knew that already, but the significance of a maintaining healthy environment had a great influence on the people’s wellbeing who utilized these materials for every need.


Midway through the museum, I had to take a break and step out away from the displays and go outside for a while.  Sometimes it can be a little difficult to see the negative trials that Native Americans had to endure in the past.  There was a display on the Chimowa boarding school with pictures of Native American children at these schools and I could see their troubled faces.  I think about the horrible experiences that I have heard of about boarding school and I see the pictures of kids lined up in uniforms. It appears to give the intention of promoting a positive effect the schools had on Native American children, but it doesn’t feel the same as looking at other public school class pictures.


Leaving the museum, I saw that they have a wind turbine near the building.  They have had the turbine now for two months and it provides power for about half of the museum.  There are plans to also install solar panels to power the other half of the museum.


Travel Day to Pendleton and Glass Art

Aug - 08 2014 | no comments | By


Leaving Deshcutes National Forest


My unfinished glass piece.

Sunday August 3, 2014

Early morning travel start time beginning in the Deschutes Forest and moving to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Or.  The tribe is made up of Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla people.  We arrived to be hosted by a generous Red Elk family, who allowed the large group of campers to camp in their backyard. Loveda Red Elk, who is an accomplished glass artist, showed us some of her work and gave us a brief introduction to biomimicry, the influence of nature on scientific innovation.  Glass was first created by volcanic forces as molten silica was deposited up into the crust of the planet.  People, including ancient Native Americans, found and used the obsidian for useful cutting tools.  Later the process was replicated to produce glass products for use in many different modern applications including the use in creating art.  We were given the opportunity to create our own little art piece with her helpful guidance.  We carefully and sometimes clumsily etched and broke small bits of glass to make our images.  My creation is supposed to express an “invasive species plant” (my title) with yellow and black flower petals.  It didn’t get to be placed into the kiln to be fired until after we left, so I have to wait to see how it turned out when it is shipped to Heritage.  Guess I will have to wait till after the trip to see if I have a glass art future.


Off Day at Lava Lake, Deshutes National Forest – Laundry and Observing

Aug - 08 2014 | no comments | By

Saturday August 2, 2014

Today was a down day, a day to do laundry and shower.  Jessica and Terry were kind enough to do all of our laundry for us, 26 campers.  The task took just about all day with only 2 washers and 2 driers available.   After a shower and while the laundry marathon continued, we had the option of going back to camp or stay at the Lava Lake campground.  I decided to stay and look around the busy Saturday Lava Lake camp to see what kind of wildlife I could see.  I spent a considerable amount of time laying on my belly watching the fish just below the docks they have.  I observed and studied the little tiny fish fry, who found satisfying cover in the aquatic plants suspended in a cluster near the wood of the dock.  They were about an inch long and as I stayed still they ventured out into the exterior edges of the cover to feed.  Lower below the dock, about 7 feet, I could see the larger fish swim by from time to time.  These were the prize of the sports fishermen who were launching out on their small boats and float-tubes and all their fishing gear.  Later after checking on the progress of the laundry crew, who were still working at the piles of clothes, I could see that there was still a lot of time to spend looking for more critters.  I found some small 2-3 inch fish, who found security in the reeds and they ventured out into the small canoe boat launch to feed.   There must have been about a thousand of them moving in school like movements and causing small riffles and swirls.  Three little garter snakes soon came to give a test to their fishing skills as they slithered amongst the groups of fish to catch a meal.  In the hour of watching their attempts, with a rest break at the water edge after every attempt, I saw only two snakes successfully catch a fish.  That’s an example of how a predator has to do a lot of work to be successful and they don’t always catch their pray.   This ended up as a really nice day, I just wish I brought may camera.

8-1 Deschutes National Forest Fuel Reduction

Aug - 04 2014 | no comments | By

DSCN0781The Deschutes River

Friday, August 1, 2014

Today we met with Colin McGuinan, a Natural Resource Manager with the Forest Service. He gave us the journey of his progression from college to his current employment position.  After finishing undergrad studies, he volunteered with National Nature Conservancy and then was hired on to other fire management employment.

Colin gave our group some insight into the methods and reasons for reducing the available fuel in a forest.  As in forestry class, we learned that the reduction of lower level fuels can reduce the impact or damage during a forest fire.  If the fire at lower levels is reduced, then the upper canopy may be spared and the forest fire intensity may be reduced.   This helps the large trees to continue to live and grow, as only the bottom of the tree is damaged.

He also told us about a discussion with his father, who is a business owner.  His father told him that he did not want his son to come to him and simply state that his business was doing something wrong.   If there was a concern about a business practice, than a reasonable discussion should be achieved to work out the problem with one another.  I feel this is a good way to deal with people, business and also leaders of people when an idea is to be presented.  Detailed facts should be offered and the problem should be worked out with input from both sides, even if they don’t agree on the subject.

7-31 Deschutes National Forest Fisheries Habitat

Aug - 04 2014 | no comments | By


Getting ready for a hard day of labor.

Thursday July 31, 2014

The group gathered to observe the restoration project on the Tumalo River.  We met with Tom Walker, a fish biologist with the Forest Service. He did his undergrad at OSU.   A fire had recently burned through the area and had burned much of the forest and riparian area.  The river is host to rainbow and brook trout, as well as other wildlife.  Soon after the fire, trees were replanted and the saplings have begun to grow in the area.  The small Lodgepole pine saplings were growing in the riparian area along the river and could be an added fire danger, as well as compete with other vegetation in the area.  So, our group helped to thin out the numbers of Lodgepole pine by pulling the ones we could find and identify.  The Forest Service desire to encourage Ponderosa Pine and Quaking Aspen to reclaim the area.  We also helped to pull one of the invasive plant species, the spotted knapweed.  Knapweed is a harmful plant to a native environment because it is so adaptive and has a long taproot that is very difficult to completely remove.

7-29 Warm Springs Observe Wild Horse Crew

Aug - 04 2014 | no comments | By



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We were introduced to those who work with the wild horses on the Warm Springs Reservation.   The cowboy crew is a part of the Natural Resources program, which is a part of the Department of Range and Agriculture for the tribe.   We met with Jason Smith, the Range and Agricultural Manager.  He discussed the difficulties that the Warm Springs People are having with the wild horse population on their Reservation.    They feel horses are an important part of the rangeland, but increasing populations can damage other natural resources.  The wild horse population is getting larger and imposes stresses on their traditional tribal vegetation.  The Warm Spring Tribe has invested a larger amount of resources into their horse management than the Yakama Nation has at this point.

Later that day we observed the holding area where they can keep a large number horses while they perform necessary tasks with the horses.  They can separate and isolate the horses so they can brand, examine, inoculate, and castrate at this site.  One of the district bosses showed their equipment, like the padded hydraulic squeeze holding pen and the large scale.  We later observed the workers, collecting the wild horses out on the hills of one of their districts.  The young cowboy crew were on horseback and herded several groups of horses towards a pen where they could be transported to the holding facility.


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