Tribal Lands GIS Project

by Patricia Flores White, Development Director

The goal of the Tribal Lands GIS project is to create an engaging data-driven tool that cultivates buy-in supporting the work of Trees, Water & People’s Tribal program. The map series illustrates the inequity issues related to health, poverty and social vulnerability on Tribal lands. In particular, the data illustrates the disparity between urban hubs and rural communities.  We feel that these issues lie at the root causes of migration pressures, across the Americas, which are only growing in the face of climate change.

This map series has the capacity to serve and inform stakeholders as well as empower Native American peoples in their decision making and planning.  

TWP_GIS_Day_poster_v3.jpgThanks to the collaboration with the CSU GeoCentroid Department we were able to develop these data visualization tools that illustrate the current day status of inequity in rural Tribal communities to potential change-makers. The series illustrated below was part of a map gallery display at the CSU Morgan Library for GIS Day, which brought together a consortium of experts in their fields spanning across a diversity of sectors. This project is an awesome example of how Geographic Information Systems help to cultivate a tangible understanding of large scale, complex issues.

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Ponderosa Pine seedlings carried by local Lakota tree planter in Pine Ridge

“I wanted to work on this project because the problems that are happening on Native American reservations, such as environmental and social injustices, are becoming more and more relevant today.” – Riley Ross (GeoCentroid Intern)

Trees, Water & People has been working with climate-vulnerable populations in Central America and on U.S. Tribal Lands for over 20 years. Founded in Ft. Collins in 1998, TWP works in: Pine Ridge – South Dakota, White Earth – Minnesota, Santo Domingo Pueblo & Santa Fe Indian School – New Mexico.

 

4 Generations of Tree Planting

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4 Generations of Tree Planters!

10,000 SW Douglas Fir tree seedlings from the San Juan Mountains have gone into the ground near the Tent Rocks National Monument on Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo’s Tribal Lands; the 3,000 remaining seedlings were taken to the Santa Fe Indian School by Cochiti tribal members where they will be planted by students and community leaders on nearby public lands.

With the help of the Santo Domingo Pueblo War Chief and his lieutenant, we were able to recruit over 15 volunteers from the local tribe to gather last week to inaugurate and launch our first joint reforestation project! As we’ve reported previously, the “Las Conchas” forest fire of 2011 devastated the highlands of the Pueblo community where Douglas Fir trees used for traditional ceremonial and conservation purposes were burned en masse. Trees, Water & People’s collaboration with the Kewa Pueblo is a one of a kind reforestation program that marries indigenous traditions and customs with climate resilience strategies of the West.

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Training the volunteers on the basics

After delivering the seedlings to the Pueblo’s greenhouse last Tuesday, we settled into a meeting at the Governor’s office where strategy, timeline, and scope of the project were revisited one final time. We originally planned to start planting on Wednesday, but due to heavy rains, the War Chief and his staff decided to hold off one more day for the climate to dry. Nevertheless, rain is a significant blessing and element for many Pueblo communities – the timing of our delivery of the seedlings felt more than apt. Thursday morning, we embarked to the planting site on top of the mountain in a line of 4WD trucks carrying just under 900 seedlings.

Rocky road conditions aside, we arrived at the site just shy of the morning breeze and kicked off the day with a prayer from the War Chief himself and a short, hands-on training on our methods and strategy. Unlike ponderosa pines, we learned from the New Mexico State Forestry Division that Douglas Fir seedlings like to be planted in cluster patterns of about 25 seedlings spread 2-3 feet from each other; this is a term called “nucleation”. The volunteer crew was quick to learn, and everyone was happy to teach one another, even in their native language.

Most impressive of all – beyond any technical achievements or success – is the multi-generational impact and participation that a project like this generates. We remember the recurring sentiment expressed by the War Chief and other elders in the community throughout the day:

“We may not be around here long enough to see these trees mature, but it’s important we have our youth here to experience it and participate in the work themselves as they are the future stewards of these lands”. 

At every stage of sustainable development, TWP’s core mission has always been to empower local people to manage the natural resources they depend on, and we believe this happens best at the participatory level. The local tribe thanks you for your donations and commitment to the well-being of their community and their land – your dedication is what helps climate vulnerable communities continue to be resilient and powerful amidst our changing environment.

To learn more about how you can support our reforestation program on Tribal Lands, visit – https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/indigenous-west-reforestation/

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Swinging into the ground to make room for a seedling