Fall 2020 – Native American Fish and Wildlife Society


 Elveda Martinez, NAFWS Southwest Region

      My Relatives: I hope you are all safe and healthy out there in Indian country. It’s been crazy here on the Walker River Paiute Reservation. We continue to get sent home for possible Covid-19 contact. It’s usually for a week at a time and then it’s quarantine, testing and having our building cleaned. Luckily, we’ve all been safe from the virus here in our building.

      We spent a good month being in the smoke from the fires here in Nevada and California. Some were so close that we had ash dropping here and the air quality kept us indoors. It was sad to hear of tribal people who lost their homes and animals. Some took it upon themselves to do mercy killings of animals on tribal lands. The impact of wildfires is devastating and takes years for people, forests and wildlife to recover.

     During these trying times, I’m happy to say that our Society continues to move forward. All of our financial management policies are currently being updated, scholarships are being advertised, CLEO trainings are being scheduled, staff are attending virtual conferences and planning is continuing.

     Please get out and vote. Our people fought hard for that right and we were the last group to earn the right to vote in 1962. We all have our opinions, but please vote for those that will be good for your tribes and people.

     I pray that you all are able to stay positive with your mental health and negative with the virus. Please pray for those tribes and relatives that are suffering from the pandemic and those that are fighting for their traditional rights. I know that we will come out of this stronger than ever. 

Elveda Martinez, President & SW Regional Director


Julie Thorstenson, Ph.D, NAFWS Executive Director

      Greetings members and partners.  I was optimistic three months ago that we would back to “normal”.  We may not have returned to 2019 normal, however, I’m very proud of the NAFWS staff and how we adapted to the “new normal”.  The new normal seems to be highly virtual and finding ways to serve our membership while maintaining health and safety during the Pandemic.  We noticed a shift from hunker down and wait it out to adaptation.


     With the National and Regional NAFWS Conferences cancelled, we decided to use this time to solidify our foundation further through organizational structure.  We have a contractor working on our policies to help meet our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan priority of financial management.  We are also in the process of updating our website to include a training portal to offer virtual training opportunities in the future.  The Board of Directors’ approved the NAFWS’ Practical Pistol Competition Manual in August.

      After 6 months of telework, the NAFWS Staff met at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes, CO for a retreat.  We used this time to plan for the remainder of 2020 and get to know our newest team members.  

      Our CLEO Technical Assistance Consultant, Robert Romero helped secure two virtual trainings in August and September.  We were very pleased with the participation with an average of 50 CLEOs in attendance for the live sessions. Mr. Romero and Karen Lynch, Public Information Officer, continue to work on compiling a list of current CLEO officers working in Indian Country.  

      As we transition to a more virtual presence, we are increasing our training opportunities as well.  NAFWS has partnered with Arizona State University, College of Law – Indian Legal Program to offer access to a pre-recorded discussion of the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision.  There will also be a live webinar to discuss the Herrera v. Wyoming case,  The live training is scheduled for October 28, 2020 and the recorded training is available now.     

      We are working on offering training on topics such as, the NEPA changes, Chronic Wasting Disease, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus-2, Invasive Plant Detection and Management and Feral Hogs Distribution and Impacts.  Continue to watch our website and Facebook pages for information.  We are excited to offer these virtual trainings FREE for 2020.

     We are taking advantage of the office time and working on archiving the NAFWS’ 37 years of photos, items, awards and documents.  You may have noticed the Facebook Throw Back Thursday photos Karen Lynch has been posting.  It is a great reminder of all the people and work the NAFWS has impacted.  If you have any photos or documents or even personal stories, you would like to contribute to the archive project, please contact Heidi McCann, Office Manager/Membership Coordinator

      As you may be aware, the coalition worked with Rep. Dingell to include a five-year authorization of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as an amendment to H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act infrastructure bill that passed on the floor 233-188 on July 1st.  Unfortunately, movement has stalled on this.  RAWA was included in the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’s landmark report (page 441 on 

     The report references the bill as part of its recommendation that Congress should provide funding for states, TRIBES, and territories to increase wildlife conservation efforts and manage and recover Species of Greatest Conservation Need.  RAWA (HR 3742) has reached 182 cosponsors, and we are still working towards the goal of have 200 bipartisan cosponsors by the end of this Congress. 

     We have 49 Tribal Letters of support representing 80 Tribes in 19 States.  We continue to encourage Tribal letters of support.  Continued bipartisan support for RAWA and a Senate bill are very important.  We remain optimistic that Tribes will finally see dedicated, annual funding for their fish and wildlife programs.

     In July we hosted a week of virtual roundtable discussions on how the Pandemic has affected Tribal Fish and Wildlife programs and natural resources.  NAFWS hosted a total of 5 Zoom meeting for 40 total participants.  The irony is attendance was undoubtedly affected by the challenges caused by the Pandemic.  To view the results of the discussions, please see the NAFWS Pandemic Impacts to Tribal Fish and Wildlife Programs Virtual Roundtable Discussions Summary.  We understand the Pandemic continues to affect our membership on a personal and professional level and are working to respond to the everchanging challenges and needs.

     I had the pleasure of presenting at the Ecological Society of American Virtual Conference on the NAFWS and working with Tribal Fish and Wildlife Programs.  I also presented at the National Tribal and Indigenous Climate Virtual Conference on the NAFWS and Tribal engagement in State Wildlife Action Plans.  Sean Cross, Corey Lucero and I attended The Wildlife Society’s Virtual Conference.  This year has been a real change for NAFWS and how we interact, but I’m pleased that organizations are including a Tribal perspective and requesting NAFWS to present.  

     Watching 2020 come to a much-welcomed end, I have to take time to reflect on how resilient our ancestors were.  I am reminded of their many daily struggles as I sit comfortably in my home.  I hope you all can draw strength from our ancestors and each other as we continue to persevere in difficult times.  I hope you all completed your census and vote as a reminder of how strong and powerful Native people are. 

     As always, if you have ideas for the Society please feel free to contact me or your Regional Directors.

My thoughts and prayers to you all,

Julie Thorstenson, PhD

Executive Director


Update: Tribal Conservation Law Enforcement and Tribes

Robert Romero, NAFWS CLEO Consultant

      Conservation Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) Consultant Robert Romero and members of the CLEO sub-committee collaborated to produce a revised Practical Pistol Competition Manual that was approved by the NAFWS Board of Directors on August 20, 2020. The manual will be used for all future Regional and National Conference pistol competitions held by the NAFWS.

     The Consultant coordinated virtual training opportunities for CLEOs to help officers achieve their 40-hour annual training requirement. Two vendors that the NAFWS contracted with for the training were the Dolan Consulting Group and Calibre Press. A live, two-day webinar, Verbal De-escalation Training for Conservation Law Enforcement: Surviving Verbal Conflict®, was held August 25-26, 2020 and attended by 59 participants. The course presenter, Chief Harry Dolan (Retired), was a very dynamic speaker and brought his extensive experience and knowledge to the training. Chief Dolan held the attention of his audience with ease and encouraged participation via a chat platform.

      Calibre Press’ live, one-day, Implicit Bias: Understanding its Impact on Actions and Decisions was held on September 2, 2020 with 41 attendees. The course was presented by Lt. Jim Glennon (Retired) who was also a very effectual speaker with years of experience and knowledge gained during his long career in Illinois. Lt. Glennon specializes in officer survival, communication and leadership which were all evident in his ability to continually engage his audience. Officers were able to ask questions and comment throughout the training via a chat forum.

      The NAFWS conducted course evaluations after the training and the feedback was extremely positive. Approximately 55% of officers responded to the Dolan survey and 39% responded to the Calibre survey. These are officer responses to some survey questions:

“This will help us to better improve our contacts with non-compliant people.”

“I thought this was a great training. I will be recommending this training to other agencies within my area. I appreciate NAFWS being proactive and helping arrange this training for Native CLEO Programs.”

“This was training that I will use every day. It is very practical training.”

“The Instructor facilitate interaction and discussion from trainees and…was well versed in the subject matter…”

“It deals with the issues law enforcement is dealing with today.”

“Our personnel deal with the general public on a daily basis. This contact includes not only local residents, but tourists and individuals from every corner of the World. The training reminded us that all too often we compound problems and situations instead of actively de-escalating situations from the initial contact. This training will allow officers to approach situations with the appropriate mindset and properly de-escalate confrontational situations.”

     Both the Verbal De-escalation and Implicit Bias webinars were recorded and are currently in use for those who registered with the NAFWS. To date, a total of 87 additional tribal employees have signed up for the recorded modules.

     We have scheduled other virtual training opportunities for CLEOs and Tribal managers to include webinars presented by the Arizona State University (ASU), Indian Legal Program and the U.S. Forest Service. ASU will be providing a live webinar on October 28, 2020 that will summarize the Supreme Court decision on the Herrera v. Wyoming case. ASU has also provided a link to a recorded version of their McGirt v. Oklahoma webinar, another Supreme Court decision, for use by the NAFWS. Both rulings are results of litigation on Indian lands and ASU’s legal team discusses their significance and impacts in Indian country.

     Another upcoming webinar relates to the humane euthanasia of severely injured domestic livestock and wildlife that is often encountered by officers during their daily duties. The live training will be presented by U.S. Forest Service, Wild Horse and Burro Coordinator Dr. Tolani Francisco, DVM MPH on November 13, 2020. Dr. Francisco will describe proper methods of euthanasia to avoid added injury and potential spread of animal illness.

    We will continues to initiate contact with numerous Tribes throughout the U.S. to notify them of training opportunities and to request personnel information for use in a national CLEO database. We also provided technical assistance to an officer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation relative to enforcement issues subsequent to the McGirt decision in the State of Oklahoma.

     Lastly, we have received approval to extend my initial Professional Services Agreement with the NAFWS. With that said, I will work to evaluate additional training and instructor needs and coordinate with Federal agencies for potential in-person training at future Regional and National Conferences. I will  also assist with the writing of a document to support a request for additional NAFWS funding to sponsor the CLEO program. If or when possible, I will plan to travel to BOD and Regional meetings to support the CLEO program.

Thank you to the NAFWS for all your support!


A Tribal Biologist Tale at the Round Valley Indian Tribes

By Warren Mitchell, Biologist Consultant, Round Valley Indian Tribes

      The Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT) are located in northern California within the California Coastal Range in northern Mendocino California. The Reservation consists of approximately 34,000 acres scattered among the historic Reservation Boundary that once contained approximately 108,000 acres.


      With this large land base comes a wide range of habitats which support a wide range of fish and wildlife species and opportunities for biologists to protect, restore or improve environmental conditions for the wildlife that lives here.


      RVIT is fortunate to be stewards of lands that are called home by a variety of wildlife species that are considered threatened or endangered through the Endangered Species Act. Having special status species on our lands gives us the opportunity, and responsibility, to manage our lands for the betterment of these species and their habitats.


      The tribe hired a full-time fisheries/wildlife biologist in 1998, primarily to address various timber harvest plan – Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) regulatory requirements. The numerous Class 1 streams

and rivers that encompass and infiltrate tribal lands provide spawning grounds for numerous species of salmonids also opened up a variety of opportunities for the tribe to undertake numerous stream restoration projects.


      By 2000, the tribes’ Natural Resources Department (NRD) had developed a Programmatic NSO Survey Program to cover tribal lands where timber harvest plans were planned or proposed for planning and had developed a Stream Restoration Program that was undertaking restoration efforts on more than a half-dozen stream that employed nearly a dozen tribal members.


      All these activities require vehicles, equipment and money to allow the crews to do their work and the tribal biologist was instrumental in identifying potential projects, writing numerous grants to various resource agencies to acquire necessary funding to implement the projects while providing oversight and training on on various restoration and survey techniques necessary to complete the tasks.


      Through the initiative of the biologist to implement various projects and programs, several hundred thousand dollars were acquired to purchase several work trucks, several pieces of heavy equipment and a greenhouse.

As these projects and programs developed and become more incorporated into NRD mainstream activities, additional endeavors to expand tribal participation in natural resource activities beyond reservation boundaries expanded to developing a working relationship with neighboring landowners

(such as the U.S. Forest Service) to conduct and assist with various land management activities.


      As years passed, the need for tribal members to step forward to manage and protect their resources, special status species and various game species, became an avenue for exploration which led to the development of a Tribal Wildlife Ordinance and sending two tribal members to the California      Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Game Warden Academy. Today, the tribe has a Conservation Law Enforcement Officer and NRD is seeking Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) training for its crews to help counter the effects of California’s largest wildfire in history, the August Complex, which has burned along its tribal boundaries.


      As Environmental conditions continue to sway to greater extremes on a nearly yearly basis, opportunities for biologist to use their skills to try to minimize local detrimental impacts continue to present themselves. One project that the tribe initiated in the early 1990’s, the Mill Creek Restoration

Project, continues to provide opportunities to restore this 2.4 mile reach of stream and restore its hydrologic features to improve spawning habitat for salmonids that return each year to restoring the riparian corridor that shades the stream and holds the banks together against heavy stream flow

conditions or tempers the heat of summer for a variety of State listed special status frogs and turtles that also call Mill Creek home.

      Having a proactive biologist can reap many benefits for the tribe, the tribal members and the environment that they and the wildlife share. Please see some of the physical benefits that the environment has received through the efforts of a tribal biologist and a dedicated crew. 

“Before and After” Pictures of the Mill Creek Restoration Project Area

Photo 1 – Mill Creek – “Upper Project Area”, Before Restoration efforts. Photo 2 – Mill Creek – “Upper Project Area”, After Restoration efforts, note Willow Wall development along banks.


Photo 3 – Mill Creek – “Upper Middle” Project Area”, Before Restoration efforts. Note the flat gravel surface right of left bank – no large rock?  Photo 4 – Mill Creek – “Upper Middle” Project Area”, After Restoration efforts. Note the defined channel and the large rock with the pool around it? 

Photo 5 – Mill Creek, “Lower Middle” pre-restoration conditions – going dry, multi-channeled and riparian free. Photo 6 – Mill Creek – Same corner as Picture 1 … just 2 years AFTER Restoration! 

Photo 7 – Mill Creek – “Middle” Project Area”, Before Restoration efforts. Photo 8 – Mill Creek – “Middle” Project Area”, After Restoration efforts.


By Ashley Carlisle, NAFWS Education Coordinator

     Good Fall Everyone! Colorado has been experiencing some chilling winds mixed with hot days including raining smoke and ash from the Cameron Peak Fire. I am continuing to pray for all our winged, two-legged, and four-legged brothers and sisters affected by this fire. 


     I recently participated in the 2020 Women in Conservation Leadership Summit with NAFWS members: Dr. Serra Hoagland, Gloria Tom, Elveda Martinez and Dr. Julie Thorstenson. And let me say, these incredible women did a great job in our presentation that addressed our life journeys as well as discussing natural resources within Indian Country. I definitely look up to them and all of you! I hope that once COVID-19 is under control and we can have our in-person gatherings, that I can hear your stories and learn from you all. I cannot wait to roar in laughter at some rez jokes, see everyone’s greasy foreheads and be in the presence of my Native family.


     But, for now, I am patiently waiting for that time as well as praying for the safety of you all, your families, and our country. I am also continuing to work on the NAFWS youth programming such as 2021 SYP planning and Mentor Program planning. I have great news to share with all of you, we have awarded two $2500.00 NAFWS National Scholarships to two incredible emerging professionals. The two recipients are Mr. Victor Lopez and Ms. Sierra Red Bow, CONGRATULATIONS!!

Below are their bios and photos: 

VICTOR LOPEZ, Navajo, Undergraduate

      “Yá’át’ééh, I am Victor Lopez. I am Navjao, my whole family is from the Gallup area, I was born in Las Cruces, NM and I was raised in Seattle, WA for all my prior education before college. I chose to return to New Mexico for school, to be back with family, and learn more about my culture. I attend Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute and am getting a degree in Environmental Science. 

      Right now, my primary goal is to simply graduate. I am heavily interested in going into a program that will be able to let me help provide more food in needed areas. I try to learn my families’ culture hand in hand with my education, so that when I can I will be able to provide for my community not just in environmental issues but also to help intertwine modern methods with traditional methods so that my history and culture is part of all the work that I do.”

SIERRA RED BOW, Oglala Lakota, Undergraduate

Háŋ mitákuyepi. Pheži Ĥóta Naĝí-wiŋ emáčiyapi kštó. I am an Oglála Lakȟóta student double majoring in Indigenous studies and environmental science. I aspire to advance Indigenous sovereignty through tribal resource management. I also strive to unsilo the field of environmental science and attempt to bridge Indigenous and western epistemologies to convince my settler relatives that there is much to learn from Indigenous communities, our lifeways, and our knowledge systems. Amidst the climate chaos caused by colonization, our communities make vital strides to achieving both ecological and cultural sustainability. Ultimately, this requires that we confront intergenerational trauma through integrative healing. By weaving Indigenous knowledge into the core of my work, I am reminding our communities that returning to a food sovereign people, reviving our languages, and carrying our cultures into the future are immensely interconnected. By walking the path of our ancestors and building relationships based in respect and reciprocity, we would not just sustain our world, but [sustain] sovereign futures and set the example for our settler relatives.


Free Hazardous Materials / WMD Awareness class (FSC 168) for Native American Tribes will be held on November 19-20, 2020. A zoom class presented by the Alabama Fire College Workplace Safety Training. 10 hours over two days. 

Start Time:  

7:30 AM (Pacific) 

8:30 AM (Mountain)

9:30 AM (Central)

10:30AM (Eastern)

Hazardous Materials/WMD: Awareness FSC 168 


• 18 years of age 


• AFC Hazmat Awareness Student Manual, Current copy of DOT Emergency Response Guidebook, EMA Emergency Response to Terrorism Job Aid – Edition 2.0 (Recommended)

o All available electronically from the Alabama Fire College at registration on the registration page.


This course is for emergency response personnel who may be first on the scene of a hazardous materials emergency at an awareness level and are expected to recognize the presence of hazardous materials, protect themselves, secure the area and call for trained personnel, consistent with the competencies recommended by NFPA 1072 and supplemented by information from government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Transportation (DOT). 


• Introduction to Hazardous Materials – The purpose of this module is to discuss relevant Federal hazardous materials response policies, the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) 1072-2017 Ed.: Standard for Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Emergency Response Personnel Professional Qualifications hazardous materials awareness-level competencies, define hazardous materials and define weapons of mass destruction. 

• The DOT Hazard Classification System, Occupancy Clues, and Container Recognition – The purpose of this module is to discuss the nine U.S. Department of Transportation hazardous materials classes and divisions, discuss common occupancies and locations for hazardous materials and describe commonly used dangerous goods containers. 

• Hazardous Materials Recognition, Identification, and Information Communication – The purpose of this module is to provide instruction and practical experience in the identification of hazardous materials at the awareness level and present references that can be used for additional information. 

• Protective Actions – The purpose of this module is to provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to apply techniques and procedures for protecting yourself and others from exposure to hazardous materials during a hazardous materials incident. 

• Weapons of Mass Destruction Awareness – The purpose of this module is to provide instruction and guided discussion in the recognition and identification of potential weapons of mass destruction and what actions Awareness level personnel should take. 

TO REGISTER FOR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRAINING:  Call 1-800-241-2467, and ask for registration.  Register for the class and an e-mail will be sent to you with class access information. For more information: [email protected]


BY: Karen Lynch, NAFWS

‍      Despite events being cancelled or postponed throughout the nation it was in no time before online events and webinars took off and became a common way to have meetings. For the NAFWS, training for conservation law enforcement officers was maintained in the best way possible so that officers could still gain their certification hours.

     The first live training webinar was a two-day one on August 25-26, 2020 and covered the topic of, Verbal De-Escalation Training for Conservation Law Enforcement: Surviving Verbal Conflict by Dolan Consulting Group that is described as, a value based training consultant group trains with real-life experiences that help public safety officials fulfill their duties.


      The second online training was titled, Implicit Bias – Understanding Its Impact on Actions & Decisions. This course is designed for officers of all ranks and assignments, and focuses on presenting  students  with  simple  yet  realistic  and  effective  techniques  that  will  assist  in overcoming  maladaptive  bias,  utilize  productive  bias,  and  improve  verbal  and  nonverbal communication skills immediately.


     For officers that attended either one or both of the trainings, these officers  agreed that these were the type of training that they needed and could be applied in their jobs.


     “I’ve been to a lot of other types of trainings and many of which don’t apply to our work in the field as conservation officers, said Clayton Davis, a conservation officer from Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, ND. Davis said he just started as a conservation officer in June and had been a police officer for 12 years and likes doing conservation law enforcement more than police work.


     He said,  “In a lot of situations that we deal with, situations could be resolved with just words. That’s where this training helped because we’re out in the field and we have to talk to people. This is important because a lot of young officers are wrong because they want to resolve an issue using physical actions and not verbal.”

     At most times law enforcement officers must be able to deal with anything out there and that includes irate people and of course there are some that are not. “It’s not about showing our authority or having to bark out commands to people,” said Chief Conservation Officer with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa in Michigan, Kevin Willis.  “I can take the things that both of those instructors said in those two trainings and I can apply it out there in the field.

     “I think we’re at a critical time now and law enforcement is not looked on very highly. I think that most of the time your contacts out there are very civil in nature and you do have a chance to talk with people. We, as officers, many of us have real life experiences with hunting and fishing and for the most part, with the general public you can talk about those things with them.

     “But not all the time,” he added, “sometimes things can go sideways . At times when there are non-Indians that don’t believe in Native Americans hunting and fishing and treaty rights in general, they don’t understand it. They think that everyone should be held by the same rules.

    “So these things are what you try to do, when you’re out there with them you try to educate them and talk to them about it. Sometimes sympathizing with them.”

     Some officers attended both trainings and some went only with one of the two trainings.


     Alred Fox, Chief Conservation Officer at White Earth Nation attended only the Verbal De-escalation training and said he already had his 40 hours of training for the year. He said his officers usually try to get most of their training at the conferences but because of Covid-19 no conferences or face-to-face trainings were available. 

     “It just keeps people more involved when the trainings are face-to-face and sometimes we can see the stress levels there like if there’s someone whose first time is to attend a training, it is easier to see that in a lot of the new officers. The anxiety and stress can’t be replaced in a classroom setting.

     “The Verbal De-escalation also helped us with our verbal skills,” he said, “First contact has a lot to do with how both parties are going to react to each other and in the way an officer presents himself.

     “With my 20 years in law enforcement I’ve dealt with a lot of different people at stops and people are on edge to begin with just from being pulled over, so I think the training was good in how to deal with that.”

     If it could be called a type of community “policing concept” as Kevin Willis called it, when we talk to folks out there and try to relate to them. I can say that my officers are pretty darn good at it. Yes, there’s a time and a place when you’ll have to assert yourself but we are expected to control the situation.  As officers we’re trained in that. Sometimes its easy and sometimes it’s a challenge.”

     With the training being online as a webinar experience means sitting in front of the computer screen and mostly listening and interaction could be limited.  The Dolan Training Group was able to provide a learning environment in the Verbal De-escalation session where the officers could interact with the instructors.

     “I liked that the instructors would read our comments and respond to our questions if we posted it and everyone would be able to see it on screen, or if the instructors asked questions we would all comment,” said Fox. “That’s important. We couldn’t ask for a better topic for a classroom setting. So this was one of the best trainings so far.”

     The officers all were in agreement that the trainings were geared toward them as conservation officers when being out in the field and dealing with the general public. 

     Alfred Fox said not only was the Verbal De-escalation training he attended a good one, but said he was pleased that it was and should be kept “conservation related.”

     “I encourage the NAFWS to keep seeking out those good trainings and the new consultant has done a good job of doing that. There’s some agencies that just don’t have funding and we are appreciative that the NAFWS could cover the costs,” said Willis.

     The CLEO sub-committee and the NAFWS CLEO consultant Robert Romero developed the trainings that were needed which was all positive said Romero. “Then we got NAFWS board approval and began coordinating the training dates.”

     To find these particular training opportunities so that training requirements could be met for the officers, Romero said he reached out to former state and federal law enforcement colleagues. “Most said they were only offering virtual training courses that were applicable to the current issues that law enforcement is dealing with on a national forefront.”

For more information on the upcoming trainings, you may contact Robert Romero at: [email protected] 



B‍y Karen Lynch, NAFWS

     NEDTalks participant, James Rattling Leaf recently discussed the importance of bringing culture, language, and technology together for earth observations and working with Native American tribes and the next generations.

     Earth observations can be defined as the gathering of information about the physical, chemical, and biological systems of the planet via remote-sensing technologies, supplemented by [Earth]-surveying techniques, which encompasses the collection, analysis, and presentation of data. [wikipedia]


     James was invited to speak in the NOAA Environmental Data Talks (NEDTalks), Speaker Series. The series explores interconnectivity of data collection, analysis, and cultural diveristy and how a better understanding of diversity can lead researchers and responders to richer data that can save lives and preserve property during natural disasters.

     Spanning the past 20 years in the GIS technology field, James wears various hats. One hat he wears keeps him busy as a Research Associate with the Cooperative Institute Research Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. And another as a consultant with the Great Plains Water Alliance, to name a couple.

     He witnessed earth observation and its technology evolve and advance since the late 1990’s while a student at Sinte Gleska University, a tribally run college located on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “It was here where it all started, I attended the National Climate Assessment meeting in Georgia. I saw and met earth observations people, scientists, and practitioners who were discussing remote sensing, and how GIS technology is used to assesss climate.”

     After Georgia he met with the Sinte Gleska University (SGU) President Lionel Bordeax who welcomed the idea of an earth observation program at the college saying, “SGU was started by its founding fathers in the Sicangu Nation to strengthen us in all aspects of life. It could help us to be in tune with the essential points in life, including the sky and the earth, spiritually and intimately as intended.

     “This really cast a vision for us at that time,” said James. So with Bordeax’s blessing we went forward to see and learn what we could do with this.

     “If farmers and ranchers were using precision technology for agriculture and making management decisions, then we too wanted to develop a culturally structured perspective that delivered information from space to the public so that tribal managers, students, and communities could also make management decisions.”

     A flagship project funded by one of SGU’s partners was the National Science Foundation which allowed us to work with geospatial technology which James said they called Rezmapper. As a tool, “it was our first activity to conceptualize the technology in the Lakota way using data. It brought different types of data interfacing with tribal and community people were able to use it.”

     The Black Hills (BH) are an important cultural site for the Lakota people. Viewing the BH from the sky and viewing the marked areas within it which are connected with the cultural history of the tribes and; therefore, is used as a teaching tool, said James. In the Lakota language the BH are called “the heart of everything that is” and from space it is shaped like a heart.

     James showed a map of the BH taken by the Native American astronauat and member of the Choctaw Tribe, John Yerrington, who honored the SGU by taking a special photo from space of the BH.

     Story maps could also be used for building connections between the culture with data and to showcase in ways that people can understand in the Lakota language because the cultural names are mapped on the locations which tell a story.

     “Tribal youth play a big part in the purpose for the work we are doing,”  said James. “In order to preparie the work force for the future it is important to strengthen our cultural heritage so youth are a driving force.”

     Tribal colleges have since developed earth observation programs and have been a success. 

     Many “windows of opportunity” are on the horizon in the work and challenges ahead. James works with several organizations, entities, and government programs and initiatives, especially as a consultant. He is involved with an international consortium called GEO Indigenous Alliance where a first symposium is in the works. Other areas to be included in their work on cultural heritage GEO technologies and earth observations include: Covid-19, women empowerment, youth education, climate adaptation, agriculture, and indigenous data sovereignty. 

     James said in their work with tribes, “how do we bring talented people together is something needed because a trained work force of young people is needed for the future. Many youth are looking for a vision. We need effective partnerships based on Respect. We want to work with governments, academia and private organizations to address these problems in our world. And I think we are all in a collective situation where we could restore balance, care and respect for people and earth.” 

       Lyrica Prince, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service contact said, “We learned of James Rattling Leaf  from a conference at the University of Colorado-Boulder called the Natural Hazards Center. His deep knowledge of Earth-observing systems drew us to ask him to discuss his experiences with the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). She added, “Throughout the process of engaging him to speak with us, I felt humbled and entertained by his candor and wit. He talked with us to answer questions from NOAA employees and leadership on the subjects of data stewardship, institutional partnership, and how the intersectionality of scientific and cultural awareness can help us to be better stewards of Earth.”

‍NEDTALKS online webinar. On right, James Rattling Leaf.


OCTOBER 28, 2020 – Online Training for Tribal CLEOs and Tribal Management: Herrera v. Wyoming (Live webinar) and McGirt v. Oklahoma (Recorded Webinar). Tribal Conservation Law Enforcement Officers and Tribal Management may register here: The deadline for registrations: October 27, 2020. Certificates of completion will be issued at the conclusion of the training. Each participant must register with the NAFWS and ASU. Herrera v. Wyoming: A case discussion and what it means going forward.

Join us for a discussion of the recent U.S. Supreme Court Case and its implications for the future. Panelists include: Rachel Heron, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Dan Lewerenz, Staff Attorney, Native American Rights Fund; Colette Routel, Co-director, Indian Law Program and Professor of Law, Mitchell Hamline School of Law. ASU Free Registration at:

The State Bar of Arizona does not approve or accredit CLE activities for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirement. This activity may qualify for up to 1 hour toward your annual CLE requirement for the State Bar of Arizona.


NOVEMBER 13, 2020 – Online Training for Tribal CLEO in Horse Euthanasia. This will be  a live webinar on how to properly euthanize injured domestic animals or wildlife that are frequently encountered by officers on duty. More information will be posted to the NAFWS website soon at:

NOVEMBER 19-20, 2020 – Free Hazardous Materials / WMD Awareness class (FSC 168) for Native American Tribes. A zoom class presented by the Alabama Fire College Workplace Safety Training. 10 hours over two days. Start Time:  7:30 AM (Pacific); 8:30 AM (Mountain); 9:30 AM (Central); 10:30AM (Eastern). To register, call 1-800-241-2467, and ask for registration.  Register for the class and an e-mail will be sent to you with class access information. (See information in this newsletter).



November 2nd-6th, 2020 – Chronic Wasting Disease-(F&W Biologists) 

November 16th-20th, 2020 – RHDV2-(F&W Biologists) 

November 30th-December 4th, 2020 – Invasive Plant Detection & Management-(F&W Biologists) 

December 14th-December 18th, 2020 – Feral Hogs Distribution & Impacts-(F&W Biologists) 

All Webinars will be starting at 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

For more information and contacts: Corey Lucero and Sean Cross

© 2020 NAFWS 

Native American Fish & Wildlife Society


10465 Melody Dr., Ste. 307


Northglenn, CO 80234



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