Tulalips aid in resource protection

Tulalip tribal members may soon be allowed to harvest medicinal herbs and other plants used in spiritual ceremonies from the Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest.

Late last week, tribal leaders announced an agreement they reached with officials at the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that kicks off a joint effort to protect natural resources held sacred by local tribes.

The agreement was years in the making, according to a statement released by the Tulalip Tribes.

“This opens communications that will assist the tribe and tribal people in accessing valuable resources and information,” Tulalip Cultural Resources Manager Hank Gobin said in the statement.

Tribal members have long asserted their right to natural resources in the region. They say the elk, deer, salmon, cedar bark, herbs and everything else the region produces naturally is guaranteed to them through the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, in which tribal leaders signed away about a fifth of what is now Washington State. The Tulalips, along with other Western Washington tribes, have been pursuing what they say is their right to steward those resources in a series of lawsuits and agreements known as the “Habitat Claim.”

The agreement with Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will allow the tribes access to natural resources in the federally-designated zone, but it’s unclear how tribal members will be able to use what they find there. “There are plenty of things that are of interest to both parties,” said Forest Supervisor Rob Iwamoto, in a statement. “We want to make sure we continue to have clean water, clean air, wildlife, forest products and fisheries. The Forest Service doesn’t have the resources we’ve had in the past, so I’d love to see the tribes participate with us.”

Iwamoto added that he hopes to collaborate with the Tulalip Tribes to restore landscape that’s been lost.

Libby Nelson, an environmental policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes, said Tulalip children could soon attend camps in the forest that will help them learn the tribes’ traditional use of natural resources.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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