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U.S. Geological Survey Activities Related to American Indians and Alaska Natives — Fiscal Year 1997

By U.S. Geological Survey

General Coordination and Policy Activities

Self-Governance Act Implementation. Representatives of the USGS participated in drafting regulations to implement the Indian Self-Governance Act and were instrumental in having the proposed regulations published in the Federal Register. The USGS received inquiries from five Self-Governance Tribes in Fiscal Year 1997. None of these inquiries developed into formal self-governance negotiations, though we hope that the Tribal governments felt welcome to pursue scientific issues of mutual interest. Representatives of the Kaw Nation visited the USGS headquarters office to discuss USGS programs and Tribal needs. The Kaw officials received water resources and educational materials, along with information about training opportunities. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe also discussed self-governance opportunities with the USGS. Currently, the Lower Elwha representatives would prefer to work with USGS scientists rather than assuming activities under the self-governance program. In response to a self-governance inquiry from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the USGS provided descriptions of non-site specific biological research that is being conducted by USGS in the Great Lakes region. This research is being done on behalf of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, of which the Grand Traverse Band is a party. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians also requested information about USGS programs. The USGS is conducting water-quality studies in the region with the support of the Grand Traverse Band. The Yurok Tribe inquired about USGS activities in its area and was sent information about a local streamgage. Contact: Susan Marcus, 703-648-4437,

New Sacred Sites Policy. The USGS created a new manual chapter to help it implement Executive Order (EO) 13007, Indian Sacred Sites. The purposes of the EO are to "protect and preserve Indian religious practices" by accommodating use and protecting the physical integrity of American Indian or Alaska Native sacred sites. The USGS continues to stress to its employees the importance of respecting sacred sites, the need to obtain permission to enter Tribal lands, and the value of notifying Federal land-managers of their intended field studies. The USGS participated in three inter-Tribal meetings, hosted by the Department of the Interior's Office of American Indian Trust; one of these meetings was held at the USGS headquarters building in Virginia. Contact: Susan Marcus, 703-648-4437,

Environmental Justice. The Executive Branch of the Federal Government established an Environmental Justice Interagency Task Force to implement Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations. Federal environmental justice actions came from concerns that "historically, low-income and minority populations have suffered disproportionately from the effects of pollution and other environmental risks" (Report to the President on EO 12898, April 11, 1995). The USGS participates in task force meetings through direct representation at field and headquarters sessions. USGS projects in South Florida and some projects conducted directly for Indian or Alaska Native governments (described elsewhere in this report) involve environmental issues. Contact: Susan Marcus, 703-648-4437, or Maria Montour, 303-236-2787,

Tribal-USGS Coordination. A representative of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana met with USGS officials to discuss data availability. Annual water data reports were provided to the Tribe by the USGS, along with other materials on USGS studies in its general area. The USGS regularly communicates with representatives of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Blackfeet Tribe, the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, and the Crow (Absarokee) Tribe on water-related issues. Because of funding through the Grand Canyon Research and Monitoring Center, USGS BRD scientists regularly contact tribal representatives from Navajo Nation, Hopi, and the Hualapai Tribes for research assistance and representation in cooperative ventures. Contact: Contact: Susan Marcus, 703-648-4437,

Wetlands Conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 1997. The USGS participated in a Wetlands Conference which was intended as a forum for American Indians to discuss their concerns with Federal agencies involved in wetlands, floodplains, riparian, and river systems. Most of the Indian issues raised were policy rather than scientific matters.

Tribal representatives stressed that cultural and spiritual connections to the land, water, animals, and plants, which are critical to most Indian people, are frequently ignored by scientists. The connections span past, present, and future generations, giving different perspectives to many resource issues. Tribal representatives stated that ecological issues on tribal lands are typically cultural and spiritual issues as well. Debate continues among Indians about how to protect sacred sites without publicizing them.

Tribal governments want to be aware of any threats to the ecology of their lands and be prepared to protect their natural resources. This means being methodical in their procedures and assuring careful documentation so they are prepared for future conflicts or litigation. Tribal representatives stressed the need for others to inform the tribe prior to working on or near Indian lands or work when that conducting activities that effect those lands. American Indians often want to work with (and learn from) Federal agencies rather than have those agencies work for them. Tribal members often have knowledge of the area and its resources and some feel that Federal personnel do not ask for or listen to this knowledge.

The tribal participants encouraged Federal agencies to start partnerships with small projects to build trust. They feel that the USGS and other Federal bureaus need to treat Indian governments as nations, on government-to-government bases. Many tribal governments feel more comfortable working with the Federal Government and some suggested avoiding projects that include State agencies. Contact: Bernard Lenz, 715-234-4015,

Cultural Events. The USGS Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) provided personnel and technical support to the Department of the Interior Special Emphasis Observance Committee and the BIA in developing and presenting all of the DoI's American Indian Heritage Month activities each November. In Fiscal Year 1997, these activities included two formal programs that featured Secretary Babbitt at the Main Interior Building and Deputy Secretary Garamendi at the USGS headquarters in Virginia. On its own initiative, the USGS OEO sponsored its annual American Indian/Alaska Native art exhibit, in November, highlighting art from members of 14 Tribes. Three American Indian artists, sponsored by the OEO, made presentations to local schools and provide tours of the exhibit as a special educational activity for people from DoI, USGS, and the local community. Contact: Alexandra Hadley, 703-648-7764,

Program Coordination. USGS OEO began an initiative to organize communications between the USGS and American Indian/Alaska Native entities for educational and recruitment purposes. Arrangements were made to meet in Fiscal Year 1998 with representatives from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the University of New Mexico Native Studies Program, and Sealaska. Contact: Alexandra Hadley, 703-648-7764;

Administrative Support to BIA. The USGS Washington Administrative Service Center provides functional support to the BIA on a reimbursable basis in excess of $2 million for:

Contact Gary Collins, 703-648-4436,

American Indian Program Council (AIPC). The USGS was participated in the American Indian Program Council through a member of its Central Region Mineral Resources Team. The AIPC is an interagency team of Federal representatives who meet quarterly to discuss and resolve issues involving recruitment and retention of Indian employees in Federal service. The Council presented a training seminar, in which USGS participated, on the trust responsibilities of Federal agencies and employees in Denver, Colorado in November 1996. Contact: Maria Montour, 303-236-2787,

Minority Scholarships. The American Chemical Society and the American Geological Institute separately award scholarships to minority students to encourage these students to pursue university degrees in science. An American Indian employee of the USGS is a member of the American Chemical Society's Minority Scholarship Selection Committee and also served on the American Geological Institute's Minority Scholarship Committee in 1997. Her work on these committees included evaluating scholarship applications and selecting the best qualified applicants. She was also nominated for permanent membership to the American Geological Institute's Minority Participation Advisory Council. Contact: Maria Montour, 303-236-2787,

Providing Role Models. An American Indian employee of the USGS was featured in a documentary film entitled "Careers in Chemistry". This documentary, being produced by the American Chemical Society (ACS), focuses on minorities in chemistry or chemistry-related fields. The ACS filmed the employee conducting her research in a USGS laboratory and in the field on abandoned mined lands. The final cut of the film should be completed in the fall of 1997. Contact: Maria Montour, 303-236-2787,

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Employees of the USGS are members of AISES and serve on its Government Relations Board. USGS employees have taken the initiative to attend the annual AISES conference and to participate in the board meetings. Contact: Maria Montour, 303-236-2787, or Larry Hothem, 703-648-4663,

Workplace Issues for American Indians. An American Indian employee of the USGS was invited to speak at the regional meetings of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (November 1996) and Moscow, Idaho (June 1997). Her talk, entitled "Workplace Issues for American Indians," focused on common workplace issues that pertain to American Indians in general, as well as workplace issues that are specific to American Indian scientists. American Indian cultures and traditional "Western" scientific culture can be adversarial. These programs presented the perspectives of an American Indian scientist who lives in both cultures. Contact: Maria Montour, 303-236-2787,

Marine Mammal Management Agreement. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed in August 1997, to provide guidance for co- management of marine mammals in Alaska. The agreement will be the foundation for planning cooperative land management and research projects. BRD's Alaska Biological Science Center signed for USGS, along with managers from the Indigenous People's Council for Marine Mammals, the National Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Contact: Director, Alaska Biological Science Center, 907-786- 3512

Using Yup'ik Expeditors. Yup ik Eskimo businesses were financially supported again in 1997 to move research equipment to sites used by USGS BRD scientists, supply groceries and supplies for three field camps, provide a boat and driver to deliver personnel and freight to field camps, and to store USGS equipment through the winter. Expenditure of these funds was necessary to support research being conducted at field stations. Contact: Director, Alaska Biological Science Center, 907-786-3512

Ecosystem Partnership at Prince William Sound/Copper River. The USGS BRD developed an Ecosystem Partnership at Prince William Sound/Copper River which included several Native Corporations. The Ahtna and Chitna Corporations participated in a BRD workshop on spruce bark beetle infestation of the ecosystem. In 1997, a Directory of Natural Resource Managers was prepared to improve communication among land managers and Native corporations. Contact: Director, Alaska Biological Science Center, 907-786-3512

Glacier Bay Ecosystem Partnership. A Glacier Bay Ecosystem Partnership was prepared and the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1997 by the USGS' Alaska Biological Science Center and the Hoonah Indian Association. Other tribes and corporations will participate in the scientific information exchange afforded by the Partnership.

  1. The Ecosystem Partnership expanded in 1997. It consists of two Native corporations (Hoonah Indian Association and Yak-Tat-Kwaan), seven Federal agencies, and three State agencies. The Partnership's goals are to promote and facilitate communication, education, research, information sharing, and cooperation to achieve an integrated ecosystem perspective in the Glacier Bay region.
  2. The Partnership newsletter was inaugurated in 1997 to discuss diverse topics, including features on Native projects and activities in the region. A meeting in March 1997 identified potential projects that could be supported by the Partnership.
  3. Although the Ecosystem Partnership meets only once a year, it has enhanced communication between USGS scientists and Alaska Native organizations. A forum has been created for open discussions of potentially sensitive issues such as commercial fishing and cruise ship traffic in Glacier Bay.
  4. Native organizations have been invited to participate in a GIS workshop sponsored by BRD in February 1998 for Partnership members. This workshop will help Partnership members learn to use geographic information systems along with the newly released Glacier Bay Ecosystem GIS CD-ROM, which was developed and funded by USGS.

Contact: Director, Alaska Biological Science Center, 907-786-3512

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