Students gain insights into tribal resource management

By J. Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences

colvilletribes-history-logo-200PULLMAN, Wash. – American Indian tribes are changing the way cultural resources are addressed. A first-of-its-kind workshop recently illuminated some unique aspects for Washington State University students and faculty.

“The workshop provided an incredible opportunity for a new generation of archaeologists and resource managers to establish good habits as we begin our careers,” said Kyle Bocinsky, a doctoral student in anthropology.

Graduate and undergraduate students in history and anthropology learned basic skills, such as preparing a budget for a project bid or clearly presenting geographic data on maps.

“More important, though, the representatives of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation shared their personal experiences of working with federal entities,” Bocinsky said. “They provided real insights to forming professional and mutually understanding relationships with the tribal consultants.”

“One of the most important issues they stressed is that the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and many other Native groups, have a long-term view of the world,” said Melissa Goodman Elgar, assistant professor of anthropology. “A bridge repair or river dam is not simply a one- or two-year construction project.”

Rather, she said, the concerns of tribal communities encompass entire ecosystems within their historic understanding of the landscape. This understanding has territorial aspects pertaining to places their groups lived in the past and places associated with tribal legends.

Five representatives of the tribes’ department of history and archaeology conducted the two-day workshop, part of a public awareness effort sponsored by the Walla Walla District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

American Indian tribes, especially those in the Northwest, are changing the way we look at and address cultural resources, said Mary Collins, director of the Museum of Anthropology at WSU. Providing students the opportunity to learn about tribal perspectives, policies and practices from members and employees of a large, tribally managed program is “extraordinarily unique. We were thrilled to have the opportunity,” she said.