Char-Koosta News 

POLSON — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resource Department recognized five employees with 30 to 45 years with the NRD program with longevity awards at the annual Christmas party luncheon held at the KwaTaqNuk Resort on Thursday, December 20. 

Here is what some of their coworker’s had to say of the honorees.  

Seth Makepeace, CSKT Hydrologist Supervisor for 30 years

CSKT longtime hydrologist Seth Makepeace has been a multi-faceted fixture of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes since 1989, said NRD Department Head Rich Janssen. 

Janssen told the 200-employee department that next summer, Makepeace will reach the 30 year mark with the Natural Resources Department. 

Janssen said Makepeace’s intellect has been selflessly shared with nearly every CSKT program. “He tirelessly fights for our natural resources with a humbleness that very few exhibit.”

Janssen went on to tell the department staff Makepeace’s career story. 

“He quickly found himself adding professional input to the ALCO program, EPA 404 and 106 programs, and helping establish the groundwater monitoring program.” Soon he was taking on reclamation projects at Dixon Post and Pole, South Fork Primitive area restoration, Magpie Creek restoration, Forestry NEPA, and early support of the highway 93 improvements to name a few.

Janssen said for a handful of years Makepeace managed the Environmental Protection Division and helped establish CSKT’s strong relationship with the EPA. 

“Seth has never let a position description dictate the work he does but instead blends his natural interests and talents into his next project,” said Janssen.

Over the years, Janssen added that Makepeace was involved in the CSKT’s water compact negotiation. 

“His innate ability to wear many professional hats has made him indispensable.”

He said he can speak hydrology at a technical level with modelers and at a crop level with the farmers. 

“He can breakdown sophisticated hydrologic concepts into legally defensible forms. He is a gifted orator even in the most heated settings,” added Janssen.

“Seth’s tenure with the CSKT has been one new endeavor after the next; each one building on the next. He mentors our up-and-comers and provides sage council to our veteran staffers. He does all of this without a need for publicity or recognition. He is journeyman hydrologist that the Natural Resources Department is grateful to have,” said Janssen before asking Makespeace to make his way to the podium for a gift. 

Dale Becker, CSKT Wildlife Manager for 33 years

Dale started his CSKT wildlife management service on the Flathead Reservation in the mid-1980’s by working on hydropower impact studies for Flathead Lake and River. Decker is known as the “bird guy” with his colleagues at NRD. “I recall one of his first wildlife study reports was something about the effects of water fluctuations on eagles and ospreys in 1985. In 1989 he changes his handle from a research biologist to the second tribal wildlife biologist,” Tom McDonald, CSKT NRD Fish and Wildlife Division Manager, told his fellow. “He has been performing that task ever since.” 

Becker developed the wildlife management program at CSKT NRD and has been known as a valuable leader in the major wildlife accomplishments for CSKT. Decker is also distinguished nationally for the accomplishments. 

McDonald underlined Becker’s work history with coworkers saying he had too many highlights to mention for the time allotted.

McDonald pointed out Becker’s work involved developing recommendations and assisting in negotiating the multimillion dollar SKQ Dam mitigation settlement for wildlife impacts, “A program that has acquired and restored thousands of acres of wetlands and other habitat that was lost from dam construction,” McDonald said. 

Becker delivered major technical support and testimony for the CSKT vs. Montana Fishing and Hunting lawsuit that provided an out-of-court agreement for licensing and fish and wildlife management on the Reservation, said McDonald. “The first of its kind between a tribe and state government,” McDonald said. 

Another major accomplishment was the role Decker played in the Montana Department of Transportation design and construction of the wildlife crossing on Highway 93. 

“I believe that still today this is the most progressive ongoing wildlife highway crossing project in the Nation. It is a very critical project, especially with habitat changes from climate change,” said McDonald. The wildlife crossing links wilderness habitat, wildlife and human life together said McDonald.

“Dale led the re-introduction of trumpeter swans on the (Flathead) Reservation and for that matter northwestern Montana and this personally has been one of my favorite projects that Dale has been doing,” said McDonald. “The sighting of these majestic and beautiful trumpeter swans that were completely gone from our basin are now a common sight as the largest waterfowl in the world.”

Dale was also part of the relocation and establishment of two Bighorn sheep populations on the Reservation in the Little Money and Big Draw and the development of the Ferry Basin Elk conservation area, that McDonald called “very successful.”

“Dale’s continued leadership over the years has led to numerous awards from the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society’s ‘Biologist of the Year,’ a Special Achievement Award from the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, and the National wildlife Federation’s National ‘Connie Award,’” said McDonald. 

“Thanks Dale for the over 33 years of excellent service and the national recognition,” McDonald said.  

Germaine White, CSKT Information and Education Specialist for 33 years

“Some of Germaine’s highlights are…as she would be the first to say they are done only through a team effort or everyone’s effort,” said McDonald as he began the story of Germaine White the CSKT NRD Information and Education and Aquatic Invasive Species Manager. 

“Germaine started her CSKT career in 1984 teaching Native American Studies at Salish Kootenai College and then moved to the Salish Culture Committee Office as the Cultural Resource Manager. In 1995 she spent a year teaching in Alaska and then returned to work for the Historic Preservation Department until 2002, when she then began her Information and Education duties with our Natural Resource Department. In 2017, developing the new AIS Program and conducting oversight was added to her program duties,” listed McDonald. On top of her NRD projects, White has also served on the Mission Valley Power Board since 2014.

McDonald didn’t hold back about her ambitious duties in all aspects of her years, “She has made over 8,750 one-on-one individual contacts and 17,500 email and phone contacts with various individuals interested in fish, wildlife and recreation resource management activities. She coordinated the annual River and Lake Honoring events, with over 18,750 student participants,” named McDonald. 

“She developed, produced and distributed numerous educational materials about fish, wildlife, recreation and AIS to schools or institutions, with over 1,940 direct student contacts and 19,340 indirect contacts through school presentations and other programs,” he added. 

It didn’t stop there. McDonald went on to list White’s completions, “She produced over 1,000 news releases, 887 radio shows or prerecorded public service announcements, and participated in numerous television interviews. She developed and updates the Wild Bison Hunt Orientation information, directed and produced the Animal Field Guide, Flathead Reservation and Riparian Species Mobile App for elementary, middle and high school students for species found along the Flathead River,” he added. 

White also coordinated the award winning “Explore the River” educational series with interactive DVD, that includes the book “Bull Trout‘s Gift,” a learning project focusing on Bull Trout restoration in the Jocko River; along with co-producing the book “Beaver Steals Fire and the Fire on the Land” with an interactive learning DVD.

“She secured funding for a major climate change education program for Indian Country from NASA that will be released in 2019,” said McDonald.

“Thank you Germaine for your outstanding 33 years of Tribal Service,” McDonald said before gifting her with a CSKT flag and Pendleton blanket.  

Lester Bigcrane, CSKT Wildland Recreation Program Manager for 34 years of service

Tom McDonald, Fish and Wildlife and Recreation Division Manager did the honors of teasing Lester Bigcrane, the Wildland Recreation Program Manager, for his love of basketball versus his wildland duties. 

“Lester also spent time as the Two Eagle River School boys’ basketball coach and led them through one of their first winning basketball seasons, I am sure that was from his own winning experiences as a Salish Kootenai College winning basketball player,” McDonald said. “One of the things about hiring Lester was it was an OJT (on-the-job-training) type of thing and he had to finish his forestry degree, and I often had to remind him that his basketball interests didn’t translate into a good transcript,” McDonald joked. 

Bigcrane began his tribal work career with a summer recreation program back in 1981 working seasonally through 1983. McDonald told the department staff that Bigcrane also did a bit of winter season work for forestry making forest road signage during that period. 

McDonald went through a short timeline of Bigcrane’s work history, “In 1984 and 85, Lester performed seasonal tree planting contract work for Tribal Forestry and was hired as a Forestry Aide in 1986. In 1987 he began his Wildland Recreation Program duties as a Technician and was later promoted to the Program Manager, his current position.”

He went on to say during Bigcrane’s Wildland Recreation program history, he had been instrumental in surveying recreational uses and impacts in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness Area and helping with the plan revision and the Wilderness Buffer Zone Plan Update.  

McDonald added he also contributed to drafting the Lower Flathead River Corridor Plan and backing with the current Reservation Forest Plan development.  

Bigcrane’s other contributions over the years is playing a key role in the Blue Bay Campground, Marina and Day Use reconstruction, and providing the main oversight of the visitor use and daily management of the largest developed recreation sight on Flathead Lake.  

“Thank you Lester for nearly 34 years of great service to the Tribes and for me, loving basketball,” said McDonald. 

Steve Normandeau, CSKT Civil Engineer Technician for 45 years

“It’s often been said that Steve made sure that provisions for a Roads Program were included with the 1855 Hellgate Treaty. That’s how long his dedicated service with the CSKT goes back,” joked Rich Janssen, CSKT NRD Department Head. “In all honesty though, Steve has worked on the Flathead since 1973.”

In the last 45 years Normandeau worked first for the Bureau of Indian Affairs when the governmental offices existed on the Flathead Reservation years ago, and eventually Normandeau transitioned over to CSKT. 

“He is one of a few remaining BIA to CSKT carryovers working in the Natural Resources Department,” said Janssen.

While serving his years with the BIA Normandeau worked a diverse range of positions: forester, surveyor, draftsman, roads designer, construction inspector, and project manager. 

Janssen went on to name a few of Normandeau’s accomplishments in his near half a century of services with the CSKT organization. 

“He completed one of the last compass-n-chain retracement surveys of an allotment east of Arlee. He laid out forest roads in the field with nothing more than a level and tape. He designed comprehensive road networks that efficiently got timber out of the woods. His ability to design on the fly made him a valuable asset to the BIA Roads Program, which he started in 1989,” said Janssen.

“After seven years working in BIA Roads, Steve helped the CSKT compact the Roads program from the BIA. He took many trips to Portland to ensure the CSKT negotiated the best deal they could. Since then Steve has designed and constructed multiple road and bridge projects. He has inspected countless new road construction projects, maintenance and rehab projects, bridges, storm drainage system improvements, and a myriad of other related projects,” Janssen said. 

Janssen said Normandeau is considered one of NRD’s most dedicated employees. “He makes sure that he’s on the job from start-to-finish regardless of what time the clock says. He takes immediate ownership and responsibility for the tasks he’s given and nothing dissuades him from fulfilling those duties,” said Janssen. 

“Steve is a fundamental reason we have been delivering successful Roads projects on the Reservation for the past 45 years. He sets a good example for all of us to live up to,” raved Janssen.

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