Department of the Interior Award Recognizes Coast Salish Tribal Journey Partnership
Participants in the Coast Salish-U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Tribal Journey Water Quality Project were recognized recently with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Partners in Conservation Award for their studies to help restore nearshore marine habitats and ecosystem functions across the Salish Sea.
The award recognizes the strength of collaborative activities, such as the USGS partnership with the Coast Salish Western Washington Tribes and British Columbia First Nations. This cooperative effort combined traditional Tribal ecological knowledge and USGS science during the 2008 Tribal Canoe Journey to research resources undergoing decline in the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
"The Salish Sea Ecosystem sustains our indigenous life way as People of the Salmon and Shoreline," said Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe Brian Cladoosby. "We say in our Lands, ‘When the Tide is out, the Table is set.' Our way of life depends upon a healthy ecosystem that stretches from the mountains to the tidelands. Through the partnerships and project, we have a stronger science and policy capacity to protect the human health of our people, our culture, and aboriginal and treaty rights of our Nations."
During the 2008 Tribal Journey, members of Western Washington Tribes and British Columbia First Nations traveled in more than 100 canoes from locations throughout Washington and British Columbia to Cowichan First Nation in Duncan, British Columbia. Five of those canoes were very special; each towed a state-of-the-art water-quality probe and carried a global positioning system (GPS) unit. From north of the Strait of Georgia to southern Puget Sound, canoe families played a very big part in recording the health of the Salish Sea. In all, participants mapped more than 607 mi of the Salish Sea and collected more than 45,000 measurements of specific water-quality components, including surface-water temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, and turbidity. Canoes are ideal for such data collection because they are slow moving and do not add toxins to the environment. USGS scientist Eric Grossman and Swinomish scientist Sarah Akin collaborated with USGS scientist Paul Schuster to develop this marine-based data-gathering project and to provide technical expertise in planning and conducting the study and analyzing the data.
The Coast Salish are the trans-boundary indigenous and aboriginal group in a region that stretches from north of Powell River in British Columbia through all of Puget Sound and down the Washington coast. In February 2008, elders, chiefs, and representatives from more than 50 Tribes and First Nations formally adopted a mission and action agenda at the Third Annual Coast Salish Gathering in Tulalip, Washington, with a goal of developing policy and supporting sound science for the restoration and protection of coastal ecosystems of the Salish Sea.
The Director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, Jon Waterhouse, brought the Coast Salish Gathering Leaders the experience of conducting water-quality studies during a 1,200-mi-long canoe trip down the Yukon River in summer 2007. "The Yukon River Healing Journey was developed to check the pulse of the river, and it was up to our team to find a way," said Director Waterhouse. The Council's biologist Bryan Maracle and Schuster developed the concept of "marrying culture and science" by dropping a water-quality probe over the side of a canoe along the Yukon River Healing Journey, which started from Moosehide, Yukon Territory, Canada, and landed in Russian Mission, Alaska.
The Yukon River Healing Journey and the Salish Sea Tribal Canoe Journey share a common purpose of blending culture and science through water-quality testing and testimony from indigenous communities about environmental changes and issues within the water systems.
The Coast Salish and the USGS collaborated again during their second Tribal Canoe Journey together on July 20-August 3, 2009. During the 2008 canoe journey, areas of poor water-quality conditions had been identified along the travel routes. This year's journey included additional activities to identify the extent and causes of declines in water quality related to changes in land use and climate—information that is crucial to making informed decisions about balancing the needs of coastal ecosystems and human livelihood.
Names and affiliations of the Partners in Conservation Award recipients are listed in a DOI news release at http://www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/050809d.html.
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DOI Award Recognizes Coast Salish Tribal Journey Partnership