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Tribal Wilderness Research Needs and - page 2 / 5





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To simplify the following discussion, examples from the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness, managed by the Con- federated Salish-Kootenai Tribes, will be used to illustrate a number of the points presented. For most issues, examples could be as easily drawn from any of the other tribal wilder- ness areas studied.

Issues for Tribal Land Managers


When tribal land managers speak of their stewardship role, a notion of both physical and spiritual protection of the land emerges (McDonald & McAvoy 1996). While the physical protection of places is common to all land manag- ers, spiritual protection is of specific importance to tribal managers (Jostad and others 1996). Tribal societies have always believed that spiritual obligation to the land is as important as physical protection. This obligation may take the form of ritual observance on the land at sacred sites, of continual conduct of the hunt of game species, and of the return to the land of the remains of plant or animal harvest after human use. These centuries old practices are considered as vital by tribal communities for contin- ued health of the land, and of the people. A major factor in establishing the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness (MMTW) was the importance of the Mission Mountains to the spiritual well-being of the Salish-Kootenai people. The MMTW Management Plan and the Tribal Wilderness Ordinance establishing the Wilderness reflect this in their policy statements (Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes 1982). The religious practices of the Salish-Kootenai people—conducting vision quests, hunting and gathering medicinal roots and herbs—continue today in the wilder- ness, and these practices are being passed on to the next generation.

Tribal land managers, many trained in Western resource management schools, also speak of the need to respect traditional land management and tenure systems that have often continued to function even under the imposed land system of the settler governments (Clayoquot Sound Scien- tific Panel 1995). Many of these land tenure systems are organized around certain families, who have delegated re- sponsibility to care for particular hunting areas or sacred sites. In most cases, their land management roles coexisted with their role as harvesters, unlike the Western system, which separates these functions. This integrated system, where hunters monitored their own areas, depended not on career managers but on family responsibility to the larger community.

The collective emphasis rather than individualistic em- phasis of most nontribal communities also influences tribal land management. Tribal communities have always had decision mechanisms that focus on the collective, but this search for collective consent is increasingly difficult in a modern context. The unity of perspective gained by shared experiences of education, spiritual practice and pursuits on the land is no longer so evident. Communities now reflect some of the diversity that challenges decision-makers in the larger, dominant society, but they show a continued desire to make the majority of decisions collectively, rather than leaving them to individuals. There are even pressures on the very definition of community, as there are differing views about who is entitled to participate in decisions. Some tribal

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

communities have coexisting forms of governance, with one reflecting Western style elected municipal government and the other a continuance of a hereditary system.

In the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes, many deci- sions on land management are made by the elected tribal council. Input from tribal programs is provided through an interdepartmental review process. Two separate cultural committees (one Salish and the other Kootenai) also provide input. Tribal members can provide input to district repre- sentatives on the Tribal Council or at public hearings. Some cases (such as the establishment of a tribal-members-only primitive area) are decided by a referendum by resident tribal members.

Since many tribal communities are also impoverished ones, there is also considerable pressure on land managers to ensure that wilderness areas provide direct economic benefit to the community. These lands have provided re- sources for these communities for generations, so it is not unreasonable that they would continue to look to these lands for economic benefit. Most tribal communities want to con- tinue hunting, fishing, agriculture and gathering on wilder- ness lands, even if they deny such opportunity to nonmem- bers of their community. In many Canadian tribal communities, “country food” continues to account for a majority of the people’s diet (Collings, 1997). Many commu- nities also want a large stake in the tourist economy that often results from the designation of wilderness and, in some cases, have legislated or negotiated preferential treatment for tribal members in hiring, contact bidding and business development.

For example, in the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes (SKCT), hunting and fishing by nontribal members is regu- lated by tribal ordinance. This ordinance covers what can and cannot be hunted. The regulations were created with the societal, cultural, religious and economic interests of the Tribes as the driving force. In the designated primitive areas of the Reservation, commercial logging is restricted to small- scale tribal member operations only. In the wilderness and primitive areas, hunting is limited to tribal members only. Currently, the SKCT operate under a “tribal member pref- erence” hiring and contracting policy that gives members an extra advantage in tribal government employment and contracting. The employment hiring policy is to strive for 100% member staff, which means that if a qualified (for the position) member is competing with a nonmember for a position, the member is hired. Contracting for goods or services allows a tribal member contractor or vendor to match any nonmember bid and receive the tribal business. Outfitting and guiding on the Reservation is limited to tribal member-owned businesses, with the exception of scenic cruises on Flathead Lake. The Tribal Wilderness Area is off- limits to any commercial uses, but the Wilderness Buffer Zone lands are open to tribal member horseback outfitters.

Tribal land managers also have to contend with territories that did not have exclusive usage or ownership in pre-settler times. Many adjacent tribes would often share territories or at least allowed long-standing usage by other peoples. These neighboring peoples want to have continuing or renewed access to lands now under tribal management, even though the traditional systems of reciprocity and relationship may have changed. Of course the nonaborigi- nal community also desires access to many of these areas,


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