Staying prepared for wildfire season

We’ll hear from one chairman about how his tribe is preparing for fire season. Plus what the Bois Forte Band of Chippewas learned from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rodney Cawston is the Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. His tribe is located in Nespelem, Washington which has experienced wildfires in the past. He joins us today to talk about fire prevention and the importance of knowing the signs.

For more than a year now tribes have been dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. After scrambling in the beginning, some tribes are starting to get the pandemic under control. Joining us today is Mike LeGarde, who is Grand Portage Band of Chippewa. He’s the senior producer of the program, “Almanac North".

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The Bureau of Land Management is offering a 10-thousand dollar reward to help find and arrest vandals who defaced a prehistoric petroglyph. 
  • Tomorrow is National Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Awareness Day. 
  • May is National Foster Care Awareness month.
  • The Cherokee Nation’s Tribal Youth Council is starting its new term.
  • A new book explores what it means to be male and Indigenous, Carina Dominguez has more. 
  • In Southeast Alaska, Tlingit villagers say the state places more value on the life of a moose than the safety of human beings.

Some quotes from today's show.

Rodney Cawston:

"Well here on the Colville reservation, we're located in North central Washington state. And we're on the dry side of Washington. We've had some pretty large catastrophic fires here in the last 10 years. And this past year was a pretty devastating. And so we've been really working hard to improve how our address communications as well as working with our residents on the Colville reservation and near the Colville reservation of how they can prepare and then prepare their homes to be more fire resilient. And then also, if this does occur again, I guess that's probably when this does occur again, that our people are as best prepared as possible."

"So we've actually been working with the Washington state department of Natural Resources and today launching a Firewise safety program and where are our members as well as our community members can register online and in doing so our fire management team, as well as the Washington state department of Natural Resources will visit your home and do an assessment, a risk assessment, so that you can be better prepared in preparing your home in the event that we do have a wild land fire. Looking at doing Firewise safety, precautions, or procedures just around your home, thinking about, fire, resilient plants removing combustible materials, keeping any type of fuel away from your home."

"So there's just the number of steps that could really help prevent losing your home and maybe losing your outbuildings. We have many ranches and farms here on our reservation. Many of our members who have livestock and agriculture. These outbuildings and all of the large farm equipment and machinery and stuff, those are all pretty expensive, high ticket items as well. And so we just want to have everybody begin thinking about this because the more they're prepared, that's helpful for us as well. Because when a wild land fire hits, we have to really look at contacting our people just to let them know the stages of fire, if there is a potential of evacuation of their homes. And so again, the more they're prepared, that helps everybody involved."

Mike LeGarde:

"Chairwoman Chavers was practically apologetic when she made that statement about how tribes at least in Minnesota were dealing with the coronavirus. I did reach out to a couple of other reservations of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe. I'm from Grand Portage myself. So I reached out to my chairman and he deferred back to chairwoman Chavers. Just about 20 miles Southwest of here, there's another reservation."

"But I chose to go with the chairwoman Chavers, because she's also the president, like I said, of Minnesota Chippewa tribe. So there's some 25,000 plus people that also fall under the umbrella of trying to figure out what's best and how do we combat or address the pandemic and her response to vaccination was, it didn't matter if folks who were Native or non-Native, employees that work for tribal nations also include non-Natives. And she said it didn't matter"

"We wanted to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible and on their reservation, Bois Forte, it's a remote site within the state it's actually divided between three areas, but the government center is a Nett Lake proper. And they've only got four speakers, fluent speakers of Ojibwe on the reservation. And those were the people that they were concerned at first and that's who they focus their energy on when the pandemic shutdown started here in the state a year ago."

ICT logo bridge

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for the Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7 Dominguez is based in Phoenix and New York.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.