About 25 stalwart hikers accompanied three Nez Perce tribal elders for a hike on Wallowa Lake’s east moraine on Saturday morning, September 15. The purpose was to explore the moraine’s natural features, and better understand concepts and ethics of resource management from the perspective of Joseph’s Wallowa Band, the Nez Perce people who lived here. The elders were from Nespelem, Washington, and are descendants of Chief Joseph’s band, the Wallowa NiMiiPuu. An evening presentation at Fishtrap’s Coffin House focused on the history of Joseph’s band after the War of 1877.
Amelia Marchand, a descendant of Joseph’s Wallowa band, and also the Environmental Trust director for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, led the hike, along with Eric Greenwell, Conservation Director of the Wallowa Land Trust. Marchand’s department manages watersheds, water quality, air quality, and water rights on the Colville reservation’s 1.4 million acres of timber and grassland. Nez Perce elders Alfred and Veronica Redstar also accompanied the group.
The meandering walk proceeded up the east side of the east moraine, pausing to examine landscape, forest, forage and forbs. At the top, with a view of Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Mountains, Marchand talked about the significance of the landscape, and the tribal understanding of natural resources.
“Earlier in this year, I had a meeting with my staff,” she said. “What I heard over and over again is that a lot of people aren’t super keen of the term “resources” when talking about the environment.” Instead of talking about harvest-able resources, Marchand and her staff began thinking about natural resources as relationships, rather than simply items for harvest and income. “I’m encouraging the staff to look at things in a more holistic way, not as compartmentalized commodities,” she said. “When you do that, it changes the perspective from resources to relationships. The landscape is our mansion. It provides everything we need. “ That is true, she noted, whether you are a traditional hunter-gatherer, or whether you are a western culture using mechanized equipment for harvest.
“This is where everything that you needed was. You would teach that to your children. And it’s not in the past tense. It’s now.”
In the future, she said, that knowledge, and the understanding that there is a reciprocal relationship with forests, grasslands, soils, and the living planet that we depend upon, is going to be even more necessary and relevant to everyone. As climate change becomes a greater and greater concern, Marchand said, understanding natural resources as both a relationship to be honored and sustained, and also an investment, will be increasingly important. “In my mind it’s an investment because there’s the reciprocity, where if you are good to your neighbor they will always be good to you. And we are neighbors with the soils and all the animals and I think that’s not something that people remember very often. We are not just talking about cultural resources or natural resources or protecting one site from development. We are talking about all living together in a good way.”