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The Wiyot's Tending Nature

Director and producer of Tending Nature, Corbett Jones talks about his new series and Indian Country Today's Mary Annette Pember tells us more about a political story she's working on.

November is Native American heritage month and as a part of that, there is a series on PBS that puts the spotlight on tribes in California.

“Tending Nature” looks at environmental knowledge tribes have and how they have tended the land throughout time. Corbett Jones, the director and producer of Tending Nature joins us today to tell us more about the series which will air nationwide on Wednesday. 

Plus national correspondent Mary Annette Pember is on the newscast weighing in on the impacts the new administration could have on Indian Country.

Quotes from today's show.

Corbett Jones:

"So this story covers the Wiyot tribe in the Humboldt Bay, Arcadia area in Northern California. And basically the gist of the story is that there was a proposed wind project that was going to take place on ancestral land. That was extremely important to the Wiyot tribe. And so when the community heard about this project there was basically a large resistance to that project. And they were able to rally the community and kind of raise awareness around projects that are, as some of the community members said are green, but might have a little bit too much brown in it. So we covered that story and talked about just the impact that that project would have on the ecological resources there. The important prayer sites. And then also just in the face of a story that they also had recently where they received ancestral land back. And so all this stuff was kind of happening at the same time. And we showed up sort of around then and covered it and we are really happy with how it turned out."

"We've made a lot of really great relationships with people in that area, tribes in that area over the years, working on this project. And so thankfully we've been able to stay in touch with those people and keep an eye on things that are happening in the area. That part of California actually has the largest tribe in California. Yurok is the largest tribe in California. And so there's a lot of stuff happening up there with tribes. And we just heard about the return of Duluwat, which was, the city of Eureka giving this important island back to the Wiyot tribe. We also heard about the wind project, just through some news reports and stuff that people were sharing on social media and said this would be a great episode and has a lot of tie-ins and just a really important story to tell."

"Each episode kind of has its own trajectory, but typically it takes months to put together a single episode. A lot of times there's a large level of just research, finding stories that are going to hit the bullet points that we want to cover it up in episodes. And tell the kind of stories that we find important to tell, in light of a traditional ecological knowledge. Also a lot of these communities want to know who we are before we come into them. So we do a lot of on the ground kind of introductions and phone calls ahead of time too. Just to kind of make sure people know that we want to have them tell their story. We don't want to be the ones putting words in their mouth. We want to show that this is their story to tell. And it's really, really important to us that everyone is comfortable with how things are being told."

Mary Annette Pember:

"Of course the Department of Interior is always one of the main offices that we are interested in and there have been a number of names floated for that among them Deb Haaland. However there's concern that would of course take her out of Congress and the tremendous power and influence that she has there. You know, there's quite a number of positions. What's interesting is some of them require Senate confirmation and some of them don't. And I think all of them do require an FBI background check. So, you know, there's quite a number of people, some that are sort of really discretionary, I think, by the president. And I think that people now that it's become clear that the white house tribal conference will be reactivated. There's quite a number of people that are being floated for those positions and people are interested in somebody who has been a tribal leader. Not necessarily somebody who's doing so now, but somebody who has that experience as well to bring to those jobs."

"Those positions, HUD in particular, would have a great deal of influence on Indian Country and our lives, our everyday lives. And if not somebody, in a leadership position, it might be useful to us to have somebody in like an assistant position or somebody in one of these positions that can be just appointed versus somebody that is Senate confirmed. So there are quite a number of possibilities. I think that leadership in Indian Country can bring, you know, to the cabinet and to advisory posts for the president."

"In Biden and Harris's 15 page, ‘A Vision for Indian Country’, they do mention meeting the existing treaty agreements. It’s interesting, not all of the treaties do mention healthcare or housing, actually only about half of them do, which I was rather surprised to learn and some past research. However, there has been quite a bit of subsequent legislation that does promise those items. So that is something that he and Harris very clearly said. That they were even aware and made mention of it, I think is quite notable. There were no promises that they were going to quote unquote, meet all of the treaty core promises made. But there was mention in that 15 page statement of making, for instance, funding for the Indian Health Service, as required as mandatory rather than discretionary as it is now. And I think that speaks volumes that so much of this funding for Indian Country has been in many ways, like an afterthought for past administrations."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Mary Annette Pember, citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is national correspondent for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @mapember. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pember loves film, books and jingle dress dancing.

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