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Tribal Wilderness Research Needs and Issues in the United States and Canada

Dan McDonald Tom McDonald Leo McAvoy

Abstract—This paper represents a dialogue between tribal wilder- ness managers and researchers on the primary research needs of tribal wilderness in the United States and Canada. The authors identify a number of research priorities for tribal wildlands. The paper also discusses some major issues and challenges faced by researchers conducting research in areas that are culturally sensi- tive to tribal members. Dialogue participants provide recommenda- tions for those wishing to initiate research in and about tribal wildland areas.

Tribal peoples in Canada and the United States had been managing their lands for eons before the arrival of settler populations, often in a state that resembles the present lands now protected as wilderness. Many government land managers are, in fact, examining indigenous practices in their continued efforts to return lands to the conditions that settlers found, and which shaped their ideas of wilderness. At the same time, tribal peoples themselves are regaining jurisdiction over portions of their traditional territories (Sanders 1990), and finding themselves managers of desig- nated or de facto wilderness areas (McDonald 1995). A number of American Indian and First Nation tribes in the United States and Canada now manage tribal wilderness and wildland areas and ecological reserves (Stumpf 1999). Little biological or social science research has been con- ducted in or about these wildland areas, and there is a need for such study as these tribal wilderness areas grow in number and in importance to both tribal and nontribal members.

Recent treaty negotiations in Canada have resulted in increased aboriginal authority and control over wilderness recreational lands in British Columbia and the Northwest and Yukon Territories. For example, the Nisga’a people of northwestern British Columbia will soon have 1,992 square kilometers returned to them from provincial crown land, and a significant portion of that will be managed as wilder- ness or near-wilderness lands. Fifty other First Nations are presently in negotiation in British Columbia alone, and

In: McCool, Stephen F.; Cole, David N.; Borrie, William T.; O’Loughlin, Jennifer, comps. 2000. Wilderness science in a time of change conference— Volume 2: Wilderness within the context of larger systems; 1999 May 23–27; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Dan McDonald is Chair, First Nation Studies, Malaspina University- College, Nanaimo, British Columbia, CANADA, V9V 1G8, e-mail: mcdonldd @mala.bc.ca L.Tom McDonald is Wildland Recreation Program Manager, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, P.O. Box 278, Pablo, MT 59855 U.S.A. Leo McAvoy is Professor of Recreation, Park and Leisure Studies, University of Minnesota, 1900 University Ave. SE., Minneapolis, MN, 55455 U.S.A., e-mail: mcavo001@tc.umn.edu

many will see increased authority over wilderness lands. There is a need for research on the effects of management and co-management of these wilderness and ecological re- serve areas (Berg 1990), especially on the efficacy of co- management by aboriginal peoples and either the federal or provincial governments.

The purpose of this paper is to engage tribal wilderness managers and wilderness researchers in a dialog about the primary research needs of tribal wilderness in the United States and Canada. This paper will describe some of the management issues that these tribal managers face, with a particular focus on those that may be unique to tribal wilderness areas. The paper will also discuss some major issues and challenges researchers face when conducting research in these culturally sensitive areas. It will provide guidance for those researchers willing to work with tribal communities to resolve these issues

Managers from six tribal land management agencies were interviewed for this paper in an attempt to identify issues and research needs. All were in the northwest area of the continent, with five in Canada and one in the United States. The tribes vary in the degree of jurisdiction they exert over these lands, with only the Confederated Salish- Kootenai Tribes of Montana having complete management authority, in their Mission Mountain Wilderness on the Flathead Reservation. The Canadian tribes have greater or lesser control in comanagement arrangements with other governments, from the near sole authority of the Vuntut Gwitchin on the Yukon’s Old Crow Flats, through the Queen Charlotte Island Haida and Kitlope valley Haisla watchmen programs, which coexist with government land managers, to the comanagement boards of the Kaska Dene in the northern Rockies of British Columbia and the Nuu- chah-nulth in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island. In each of the Canadian cases, reestablishment of tribal land management has come as a result of land claims or modern treaty negotiations.

It is important to note that, for tribal land managers, these territories called wilderness by the settler population are thought of as homelands by the tribal peoples. The lands are full of evidence of long-standing continuous relationships between the tribe and the environment. A short walk in from any beach on Haida or Nuu-chah-nulth territory, one encounters culturally modified trees, often centuries old. The homeland of the Kaska Dene or Vuntut Gwitchin is full of sacred sites or markers of family-owned hunting territories. The Salish-Kootenai land still bears vegetative patterns reflective of centuries of controlled burns. In each case, their lands are far from untrammeled in tribal eyes and humans are certainly not intruders into nature (Morrison 1995).


USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-2. 2000

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