Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Tribute to Elmer Crow

Some of you may know, that during this two week field course, we had the privilege to meet Elmer Crow, a Nez Perce elder as well as environmentalist. Some of you may know, Elmer passed away earlier this week. Elmer passed in the process of rescuing his grandsons from drowning in the Snake River.

I only knew Elmer for a short time, but in that time, he was able to teach us so much about the importance of maintaining our ecosystem, as well as the importance of respect. Through his stores, it was clear to me that Elmer's life was spent constantly working to better the environment, himself, and those around him. There are not many people in this world who can completely command the attention of 10 high school students, 7 college students, and 6 chaperons, but with his grace and humor, Elmer was able to keep our group completely entranced in his story.

If any are interested in learning more about Elmer Crow, there has been a Facebook page created to remember him. The link is :

My most heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Elmer. I am so glad to have had the change to meet and learn from him, and I will cherish that time forever. Elmer is an inspiration to any young environmentalist, and I plan to pull the knowledge gleaned from him in my future.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thank You

This has been a trip of a lifetime for me and will provide me invaluable information that will be helpful to me in my future career, as well as in my life.

I want to say thank you to all of the people who helped make this trip possible. Thank you to the Tribes, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Forest Service for allowing us to come onto your land, and thank you for teaching us. Thank you to Wenix Red Elk and her family for being so generous. Thank you to all of the people at Heritage University who helped make this trip possible, as well as whoever gives out the grants. Thank you to the parents who allowed their children to take part in the amazing experience. Thank you to my boss for being so patient and allowing me to take almost a month off of work. Thank you to my family for being my support system through all of this. Thank you Haver, Cia, Michelle, Monet, Francisco, Destiny, (My Heritage Family), as well as Chance, Chrissy, Brandy, Morelia, Sheryl, Christian (Spaghetti Straps, Cheese Straps, Spaghetti Cheese, etc), Geo, Calista, Eric, and Ari. At first I was a little bit worried to spend two weeks with high school kids, but you guys proved you are eager to learn and embrace the knowledge that was bestowed upon us. Thank you also to Clinton and Chrissy for keeping your kids in line ;)  BIG BIG BIG thank you to Charlie Fiander, and Jayla Krause. Without you two, I know I wouldn't have been able to make the most of this experience, and to be honest, I probably would have been miserable. Also, another huge thank you to Jessica Black for allowing me to be part of this experience.

Day 13: Dry Falls and HOME!!!

Well, today was the last day of our trip. YAY! I was definitely ready to go home. In the morning, we woke up many of us who slept outside were sleeping on deflated mattresses. After I looked around, I noticed that there were only a few people, from Band Wagon, who were sleeping on fully inflated mattresses. Smells like a prank to me. Turns out they let the air out of our mattresses and put shaving cream on our vans. It was a harmless prank and I still slept great so I wasn't too upset. After we ate breakfast, we needed to do an inventory on ALL of our gear. We had to turn in our headlamps, backpacks, water pouches, laundry bags, air mattresses, sleeping bags, and tents. Jessica recruited Fransicso, Sheryl and I to take tent inventory, which involved making sure each tent had all the pieces (stakes, rods, covers, footprints, straps, etc). Ugh! That took a while, but it was better than sitting around doing nothing. Jessica announced for us to make sandwiches for lunch. I did NOT want to eat another sandwich, so I didn't make one. Once we finally left, we had to stop in Grand Coulee for gas, and everybody loaded up on snacks. I got a pizza pocket and a bean and cheese burrito. Much better than a sandwich. After our pit stop, we headed to Dry Falls to see exactly how powerful the Missoula Flood was. We investigated the visitor center and watched the short film, and then some of the high school kids were finishing up their blogs. It felt like we were there forever and all I wanted to do was go home. We finally headed home and once we hit Fort Road in Toppenish, I was happy to be home, but a little sad that I would have to say goodbye to people I had created relationships with. Overall, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity, but I am extremely happy to be home and see my family.

Day 12: Barbara Frielander Arida, Pacific Aquaculture, Animal Furs, and Wolf Howling

It's our last full day of our trip! We woke up around 7:00 am and got ready for the day. We had a tribal elder named Barbara Frielander Arida come and speak to us about the importance of protecting our earth. She has been working with different agencies and departments for 45 years to help protect and conserve our earth. She spoke about problems such as radiation poisoning from Hanford, as well as uranium pollution in the Spokane area. We only had a short time with Barbara, but it was clear to our entire group that she possesses a wealth of knowledge when it comes to protecting our environment, and unlike some who sit back and watch horrible things happen, she fights for what she thinks is right, and will continue to fight for our earth, because if people like her don't, who will?

After Barbara's lecture, Rick Desautal met us at the Community Center and took us to Pacific Aquaculture, a steel head farm located in Nespelem. Once we arrived there, we heard from some of the employees about the process. Bill Clark (Pacific Aquaculture Site Manager) told us that at his two sites, they are able to raise 7-8 million pounds of steel head annually. The steel head are used for commercial use and will eventually end up being sold at places like Costco or Safeway. We were able to actually see the fish in the pens. They are separated into size. While looking at the larger fish, I noticed that many of them had deformities and all of them were injured from rubbing on the nets. I didn't want to be rude and as Bill, but I was wondering exactly what types of chemicals and antibiotics they give these fish to keep them "healthy" and how those chemicals and antibiotics are effecting the river. 

After the fish farm tour, we made our way back to the Community Center where Rick gave us a presentation of different animal furs that have been collected in the area. He had a large collection that included weasels, beaver, bobcats, lynx, cougars, bear, wolves, deer, elk, and many more. His presentation was extremely interesting  He went animal by animal and spoke a little bit of each. I will admit, I was extremely tired and found my eyelids drooping several times through his presentation, and apparently I wasn't the only one. I never fell asleep though. After his presentation concluded, we were supposed to do a GPS activity, but even Jessica was exhausted and some of the students wanted to do laundry, so we had about 4 hours of free time. Charlie, Jayla, Monet and I used it to take a nap. I just put my blanket in the shaded area of the grass and passed out. When I woke up I felt great. Charlie, Jayla, Monet and I were on dinner duty. We cooked up some Sloppy Jo's and mac'n'cheese. The water for the mac'n'cheese took way to long to boil and I barley had enough time to mix everything together before it was time to go. Some of us grabbed a bowl of mac'n'cheese to take on the road with us, and apparently it wad delicious. 

Rick took us up into the surrounding mountains to howl at the wolves in the area. I was a little bit afraid to be so near wolves. Rick assured us that the wolves were harmless and we should be more worried about the bears and cougars. Thanks Rick. Anyway, we stopped at a small campsite called Gold Lake, where Rick told us what to do once we got the howling site. When we finally arrived at the site, Rick informed us that he accidentally took us to the "Kill Site" instead of the "Rendezvous Site" but we could give it a try anyway. After Rick howled, he started giving some of us the chance to howl as well. First, he picked Jayla. She howled, with no reply. Then he asked me to howl. I didn't want to at first, because I wasn't feeling great but then I though, "How often to you get the chance to howl at wolves?" so I went for it. Unfortunately  I didn't get a reply either. A few more people attempted to get a response, but were unsuccessful. It would have been really cool to hear wolves howl back at us, but oh well. After the wolf howling experience, we headed back to camp. I was finally able to shower, eat some mac'n'cheese, and then headed to bed. 

Day 11: Wellpinit/Nespelem

This morning, we were allowed to shower and blog at the Wellpinit High School, and it was great. It was a very relaxing morning. We weren't in a huge hurry to leave, so we took our time packing up camp and loading the vans. For this leg of the trip, we are making our way to Nespelem, WA. On our way to Nespelem, we stopped in Republic, WA to search for fossils! On the way to Republic, most of us fell asleep, and when we woke up, we weren't exactly thrilled to go out in the heat and pound rocks, but it actually turned out to be really cool. In Republic, there is a place called Stonerose, that allows the public to rent tools and search an ancient lake bed for fossils. The fossils in this lake bed date from 48-50 million years old. Charlie was my partner for the fossil search, and we found one fossil, of wood. After the fossil hunt, everybody was dying for something cool to drink, and we begged Jessica to let us stop, we all loaded up on drinks and snacks at a local gas station, and then made our way to Nespelem. We finally arrived at the Nespelem Community Center (which is super nice!) and Charlie, Jayla, Monet and I decided we were sick and tired of setting up our tent, and instead wanted to just sleep under the stars, so while others were setting up tents, we were just relaxing. Thanks to a $5000 grant, we were able to go out to dinner! We headed out to Grand Coulee City and made our way to a local pizza place. Yummy :) After our delicious dinner, we headed to the largest dam in the Northwest, Coulee Dam. We we able to see the light show, which we really interesting and educational. One thing I liked about the dam show, was that it considered both benefits and damages the occurred once the construction of  Coulee began. Many tribes lost their fishing grounds and were forced to move to higher elevations to provide families with food, but on the other side of things, the dam provided power to thousands of homes, and industries. After the dam show was complete, we headed back to the community center and hit the hay.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 3: Horseback Riding, and Museum at Warm Springs

Day 3 was one of my favorite days so far on this trip. To start off our day, we traveled from Warm Springs towards Kah-Nee-Tah resort and we got to ride horses! If you know me at all, then you know I love horseback riding, but I don't have the chance to do it very often. The Heritage Group took the second trip, and while we were waiting for the White Swan group to return, we made a silly video. If you are interested, it has been posted on Jayla's instagram. When it was finally our turn to ride, everybody else was using a stump to get up on their horse, and I just put my foot through the stirrup and hopped on up like a pro. When we started our trial ride, I discovered i had a slow poke horse. Eventually, the guide gave me advice to make my horse, Deschutes, actually trot. I was a little sad the the ride was so short, but I was happy that I got the chance to do it in such a beautiful area.

After our horse ride, we headed towards the Museum at Warm Springs. We toured the museum and later had a lunch cooked by Arelene Stryer. She later told us stores about her past, and a story about a time when she struggled to fight for her life, and that being persevering and humble allowed her to survive.

After our museum tour and talk from Arelene, we made our way towards Deschutes National Forest to set up camp for a few days.

Day 10: Wellpinit (Spokane Reservation)

We are staying at the Wellpinit fair grounds for this leg of the trip. We arrived  around 9:30pm and started to set up camp. Our hosts were very generous and offered to buy us all Arbys for dinner. We had one van pick up all of the food so the rest of us could meet Warren Seyler (BPA Coordinator) at our campsite.  He let us in, showed us around. It was really dark and there were quite a few mosquitos, so I wanted to get my tent set up quickly. When the van with the food arrived I was still setting up and while they were passing out food,  I decided to wait to eat until I was done. Well, once I had finished setting up my tent and went to find my food,  my meal was missing :( I don't know if someone ended up eating mine or if it  was lost,  but for some reason, it really upset me. It was probably the combination of stress and homesickness that sent me over the edge. I didn't blow up at anyone, but I really wanted to go home.

The next morning I was feeling better. We headed to the fair grounds' stadium seating and met Billy Joe Kieffer (Director for Spokane Tribe Department of Natural Resources),  Warren Seyler (BPA Coordinator), John Matt (Heritage Coordinator), Bill Matt (Environmental Officer), Brian Crossley (DNR for Spokane Tribe Program Manager), Casey Flannigan (DNR for Spokane Tribes Project Manager), and Brent Nichols (Program Manager for Lake Roosevelt Fisheries). They spoke to us about invasive species, salmon restoration,  and wildlife projects around the area.

After that we drove to meet Candice Bennett (Wildlife Biologist for Spokane Tribes). She took us out into the field and showed ud a techniqie called "Track Platting". Track platting is a way for her to determine what small carnivores are in the area. To do this,  she baits one end with chicken and on the bottom plate, there is a layer of soot followed by a piece of lightweight track paper. This allows her to see the foot prints of the animals and from there she can identify the species.

There was a crew of photographers from Heritage University that had instructions to take pictures of the environmental science and environmental studies majors. Thats me. I had paparazzi!! It felt odd to be constantly photographed and I sometimes found myself posing.

After we saw the track plate demonstration,  we headed to a small picnic site next to Shimican Creek. The tribal members provided us an excellent lunch of hamburgers,  chips, and salads.

Once we finished eating,  we got to shock fish to monitor the species in the stream!! SO. MUCH. FUN!!!

Later we went down to  a section of Lake Roosevelt, where we were provided a delicious meal of salmon, chicken, corn, and potato salad. We got to go swimming and also heard stories from some tribal members.

Overall, it was definitely my favorite day so far. The Spokane Tribe offers many internships,  and I plan to look into them in the future.