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News from the Pacific Northwest

Lefthand wins prize for environmental research

SEATTLE – Clarita Lefthand, Navajo, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington School of Public Health, has been awarded the second annual Bullitt Environmental Prize.

The prize from the Bullitt Foundation carries a cash award of $50,000 a year for two years. It is awarded to a graduate student at a university in the Pacific Northwest who has overcome a disadvantaged background, compiled a sterling academic record and demonstrated promise of emerging as an environmental leader. The awards ceremony was held Sept. 9.

Lefthand conducts environmental health microbiology research and is interested in expanding into environmental justice. In the lab, she is working on a method to detect the presence of pathogenic bacteria in drinking or marine water. She used microbial source tracking methods to determine sources of fecal contamination of water in Tulalip Bay, on the Tulalip reservation.

“This type of research is interesting to me because of its direct applicability to real-world problems,” she wrote. “My goal as a Ph.D. student is to find ways to link my lab work with environmental issues that tribal nations are experiencing today. My overall professional goals are to enter academia after I earn my Ph.D.; and in the long term, I will think about ways to contribute to improving science education among indigenous communities.”

Lefthand is married to William Stein, an associate professor of mathematics at UW. She is active with the Oversight Committee for the Environmental Health Research Experience Program and the local chapter of Native American Students in Advanced Academia. She spearheaded that organization’s national meeting on the UW campus last year.

“Clarita seems destined for an important role in solving the environmental challenges confronting us,” the foundation reported.

Suquamish, state work to improve mental health access

PORT MADISON, Wash. – Assistant Social and Health Services Secretary Doug Porter and Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman have signed an agreement that will allow Suquamish youth direct access to state-managed mental health services.

Specifically, the agreement gives Suquamish easier access to the Medicaid-funded Children’s Long-Term Inpatient Program, a program providing treatment for children with mental illness who need a voluntary residential setting. The program currently contracts for about 100 beds in residential treatment facilities across the state.

In the past, Suquamish Health Services has had to pursue mental health treatment for its youth through the Regional Support Network, a county-level entity delegated by the state to manage access to mental health services. The network operates under a different funding arrangement than the Suquamish health system. That process resulted in a delay in services.

Under the agreement, DSHS and Suquamish established a government-to-government relationship that will enable Suquamish to access those services without going through a separate process. It also allows Suquamish to obtain services that are culturally competent and timely.

No treaty rights are waived under the agreement.

Klallam, Makah, others restore Hoko River habitat

FORKS, Wash. – A joint effort of Lower Elwha Klallam, Makah, the state Department of Natural Resources and Rayonier Forest Resources have restored an important part of the Hoko River as a feeding and spawning ground for fish and other wildlife.

The restoration site is at the confluence of two major Hoko River tributaries, Ellis Creek and Creek 191. The site is about 50 miles west of Port Angeles and 20 miles northwest of Forks. The creeks run through state trust forests managed by DNR and forests owned by Rayonier.

Salmon habitat was lost to old logging practices that clear-cut streamside areas and left the streams without the ecosystem that salmon need to survive, including tree shade and food sources. The area is also prime habitat for the marbled murrelet, which is listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species Act.

Restoration work included removing a fish-blocking, eight-foot-diameter culvert and 3,500 cubic yards of fill, opening up nearly 1.5 miles of salmon habitat on Creek 191. Crews also removed two log bridges that restricted the river’s flow. A series of nine engineered log jams were installed in the river, using more than 300 large logs with root wads throughout the half-mile stretch of the restoration area.

Nearly 100 more logs were slated to be brought in by helicopter in September and placed within a one-mile reach of Ellis Creek, near its confluence with the river. The log additions will help create habitat important for young salmon in which to feed and rest as they make their way to the ocean.

$400,000 endowment for Coast Salish exhibit

SEATTLE – The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided a $400,000 grant to support the Seattle Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, “S’abadeb – The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art,” an exploration of the artistry and culture of Coast Salish First Peoples of Washington state and British Columbia.

The exhibition is organized and curated by the Seattle Art Museum’s Barbara Brotherton. It features more than 175 artworks from national and international collections, offering a glimpse into the daily and ceremonial lives of the 40 groups comprising the Coast Salish.

The exhibition will be on view in Seattle Oct. 24 – Jan. 11 before traveling to the Heard Museum in Phoenix Feb. 21 – Aug. 16, and in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, Nov. 20 – March 8.

Seattle Art Museum Director Mimi Gates said American Indian art is “one of the museum’s strongest collections, and is central to our region’s history and culture.” Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman added, “I hope [visitors] will learn about the Coast Salish people, our expressions of culture and our values, and pass them on to friends and family.”

Other exhibition sponsors include Adobe Systems, Boeing Co., Humanities Washington, Henry Luce Foundation, Native Arts of the Americas, the state Arts Commission, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort and U.S. Bancorp Foundation.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at