POLSON — What are the liabilities of climate change that affect the Flathead Reservation ecosystem? It has been a discussion circling the dialogues at the monthly Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Climate Change Adaptation Planning meetings that began in March.
Mike Durglo, CSKT Climate Change Adaptation Planning Committee lead reaffirmed to the group at the May meeting CSKT’s commitment that the planning process will be shared with other Tribes and groups.
“CSKT remains a leader in climate change planning and wants to help other communities plan for the future,” Durglo said. He shared his recent climate change conference in Hawaii where he learned a deeper understanding of how everything is connected in the earthly enviroment. Durglo said he came to know that microorganisms from the top of the mountain all the way to the ocean are connected.
“We are emulating this idea today, showing how everything is connected. Planning is important for future generations,” he told the group. Durglo spoke of the white bark pine example, how people are connected to the Earth and to the water.
“We know why we are planning,” he said. “We are planning for the future.”
Jim Durglo, with the Intertribal Timber Council reminded the committee the presentations and information shared amongst one another is an interactive discussion and not a lecture.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Jim Durglo and Josh Rosenau, SKC Center for Tribal Research and Education in Ecosystem Sciences presented the Tribal Lifeways project with attendees. Rosenau said The Lifeways Planning Diagram arose out of a desire to “indigenize” the planning process, moving away from the vertical silo sector-based framework to a more connected horizontal approach.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge is based on how tribal people pass on knowledge relationship to nature through history, stories, place names, spiritual connections as different than Western scientific knowledge that encompasses written history and data collection from experiments.
“It became apparent to me that thinking about what we are doing in a different context is important,” Jim Durglo said. “We’ve always been told that all things are connected. It was apparent last time that any climate impacts from a changing climate, affects all of our resources.
“During the last plan we articulated that in a different way. We did it more ‘my sector’ and it was a very linear thought with the plan. More siloed. How can we do more indigenous strategy around the idea of climate planning at CSKT?”
Durglo’s ideas panned out as place-based impacts by each sector, the idea of culture and spirituality in the plan; thinking about different scales, longer term; including ancestors and prayers, thoughts and beliefs to be captured and included.
The previous plan did not include planning for future extreme climate events such as: extreme floods, fires, winds and droughts.
“People are experiencing these events that they have never seen,” he said. “How are we going to handle these (extreme weather related events) other than just wait for them to happen and react?”
Rosenau explained each sector in the CSKT Lifeway diagram is represented with a circle surrounded with all of the other sectors. “It was found that culture tends to be a binding ingredient, almost like a nucleus,” he said. “When we talk and discuss nature we are also talking about nature, and vice versa.”
Rosenau impressed the diagram is not the end all, be all. “We would like comments on the design and information that is presented in the graphics,” he said. “We are very open to taking feedback.” he added.
The goal of the list of diagrams shared at the meeting is to ground people in place he explained.
Small Salmon mentioned it would be good to bring this information to the Elders. “Language is really important, we don’t want to lose it, we don’t have very many elders left,” he told the group. “Using a diagram is a good thing but include the language. I want to see the language and families on the diagrams. It’s good to get it off the ground and good that you have a diagram.”
The living landscapes website depicts the diagram as a spider web,” said Tom McDonald, manager of the NRD’s Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation program. “You touch one, and everything is affected.”
In April the CSKT Climate Change Adaptation committee recorded a list of vulnerabilities at the meeting that came up in discussions.
The first gathering focused on seeing where the group is at with the process and the second gathering focused on vulnerabilities. The CCAP group is currently working to connect all the information and determine an action plan.
“If you start feeling like you are too focused on the details try to step back and look at the big picture, remember that everything is connected. One participant reminded folks. “The value of tribal perspective is that everyone has gifts and strengths and as a tribe we recognize that and celebrate that.”
Other participants mentioned noticing less and less native forbs and grasses and more noxious weeds. More Eurasian species are being seen and invasive wiregrass has grown from 5,000 to 60,000 acres on the Flathead Reservation.
Plants and Pollutants
A discussion surrounding plants, weeds and invasive species was a longer dialogue that fed off from previous meeting discussions.
Tom McDonald said, plants that pull carbon out of the air are favored and important to include in the plan. “Theoretically, we could remove all of the carbon we are producing by looking into what we are planting and changing to adapt,” he said.
McDonald added it is important to think about the difference between invasive species and weeds. Invasive species kick and push out native species, they take over an area while on the other hand weeds have the potential to co-exist.
“What would Mother Nature do,” McDonald wondered.” We do need some chaos to survive and adapt.”
“We are finding how important pollination is in surviving and adapting. We should emphasize the potential of finding new solutions beyond the historical solutions,” said Susan How of 350 Glacier. “Keeping dandelions (which is a very invasive species) can help cause early pollination. Butterflies are adapting to non-native habitat to keep themselves alive.”
“There are good weeds and bad weeds, and maybe there are things like dandelions that could be both,” Jim Durglo said.
Jasmine Courville Brown, CSKT NRD Pesticides Program said when they do restoration on a site they look at what is there and then go to forestry and look into what native plants could replace noxious weeds. “For example, if someone is removing a field of dandelions, we can look into what white and yellow flowers are native that can replace the field,” she said. “We always make sure we replace a habitat with another that is good for species livability, including a good food source for the species.”
“There is some real science on the idea that one tree knows that you cut down another tree because of the fungus that comes up, if a new mushroom is growing,” Buck Morigeau said. “Fungus cleans the earth. Chernobyl has a new mushroom.”
Whisper Camel Means, NRD wildlife biologist said to look at interconnectedness. “I like to work in teams and figure out how to work together, internally thinking about relationships and conflicts, how do we work beyond the brokenness if it happens, and how do we work together,” she said. “How do we fix broken relationships eternally and move past it? Relationships get severed and we wait for people to retire to talk. Conflict resolution is important so we can keep moving forward.”
Other items in the discussion were looking at how to communicate “the plan” ideas from a holistic view; looking into the use of newer technologies; recycling and market dependency of plastic bags; how recreation fits in the plan; water, streams, lakes; youth involvement; and more.
Grounded in Tradition
“We are the protectors of the earth,” said Buck Morigeau who was invited to speak about his experiences from a cultural aspect. He told stories of growing up and the warnings of earth changes his mother talked of. “Mom prepared us that it (infrastructure) would fail. Not to be a downer, but there are solutions.
One major solution he said was the growth of Hemp.
“Mom and I had a conversation and I’m a bit embarrassed to bring up at events,” he said. “Hemp an answer to all of this. The minerals in our foods are leaving and the industry is puffing it up with chemicals. Hemp gives three times the mineral back in the earth.
“Local groups coming together is where real things happen. With us talking — that to me is real. Think about it. Open a conversation. Your opinion is very valuable,” Morigeau said.
The June meeting will be a regular meeting. The last CCAP gathering is scheduled in September. The date and location is yet to be determined. CCAPC is scheduled to meet with the Selis? Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee on Wednesday June 5 to brief the Elders and to invite them to participate.