Thursday, August 30, 2018

Intertribal Nursery Council 2018 Annual Meeting

By Adam LeMieux-SDI Phenology Research/Learning Path Intern

This summer I took an unexpected trip that helped open my eyes to the fun of working with plants and the dangers of climate change and wildfires. For the last few years, I have been a natural resources student at CMN. I finished my last class in May. That was also the time that I started an internship with the Sustainable Development Institute. I held off on doing an internship until after all my classes were completed because i thought that it would get in the way of studying for my classes. It was not until after I started the internship that I learned that the staff at SDI does everything that they can to work with a students school and work schedules. Now I wish i had signed up for an internship a couple years earlier. 

One day, about a month into my internship, I was called into my bosses office. It usually is not a good thing when one gets called into the bosses office. I instantly started trying to figure out what I did wrong. She surprised me by asking if I wanted to take a trip to Boise, Idaho to attend the Intertribal Nursery Council (INC) annual meeting. I was told that I would be going with  Menominee community member Jeff Grignon. I thought about it for about half a second before stating that I would love to go. I had a feeling that it would be a good learning experience. I had heard Jeff talk about traditional Menominee plant knowledge before and was interested in getting to know him better.

I was nervous when the day came to go on the trip. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Boise. I was running late so I ended up meeting and introducing myself to Jeff when I got on the plane. When our flight landed, I was shocked by the dry heat in Idaho. I had always thought that Idaho was all trees and mountains with temperatures that are similar to Wisconsin. I felt like I was in a desert when I stepped outside of the airport. It was like no environment that I have ever been in. The presentations didn’t start until the next day, but since I was tired from the flight, I decided to just relax in my room and go to bed early.

The next morning I woke up and got ready for the day. After getting ready, I went outside for a moment to admire the beautiful scenery that was near our hotel. Then I went into the meeting room and listened to the opening presentations. The meeting started with a welcome from Jeremy Pinto, the chairperson of INC, and a traditional prayer that was given by Ted Howard, the tribal chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes. There was a plethora of information given by the presenters. I learned about a variety of things from the reintroduction of salmon into streams to hoop houses and wildfire recovery. After the morning presentations we took a lunch break then got ready for our first bus trip.

We all loaded up the bus for a ride to Table Rock which is just outside of Boise. This was the location of a wildfire that had occurred a few years ago. There, we met Martha Brabec from the Table Rock Restoration Project. She told us about the wildfire and the restoration efforts that have taken place. We then got back on the bus and took a ride to the Lucky Peak Nursery which is run by the US Forestry Service. There we were taught about how they run their greenhouses and we were shown the machinery that they use to separate and collect their seeds. When we were finished there, we went back to the hotel to end the day. Once again, it was a long day so I just stayed in my room and watched some tv.
The next day had a similar start as the day before. We went to the meeting room and listened to more presentations. I learned even more about such things as monarch butterflies and their migration habits, bee farms, and alternatives to pesticides. When the presentations were done, we boarded a bus and started our trip to the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, which is located on the border of Idaho and Nevada. On our way to the reservation we stopped at Bruneau Sand Dune State Park. There we saw the largest stationary sand dune in the world. It was a beautiful place that I would love to visit again in the future. 

Before we arrived at the reservation, we were told that they had just had a wildfire in the area only a few days earlier. It was shocking to see the entire hillside blackened from the fire. That sight gave me a new perspective on how dangerous wildfires can be. The grass and brush had burned to within a few feet of some of the peoples houses. I was grateful to our hosts since I knew they were still busy dealing with the aftermath of the fire. We toured their hoop houses and greenhouses. There we learned that much of the food that is grown is given back to the tribe. When the tour was done we were fed a traditional Shoshone-Paiute meal. The main course of the meal was elk. I had never eaten elk and was looking forward to trying it. I was not disappointed. Elk might be the best tasting meat that i have ever eaten. I just hope it does not take another 38 years for me to have it again. We then thanked our hosts and the woman that had prepared the meal for us. That was a meal that I will remember for a long time. When we boarded the bus again, I was not looking forward to the long ride back to the hotel, but it did not seem to take too long because I spent most of the time visiting with some people that I had met the day before.

The final day of the meeting was shorter than the other two. On that day, there was only a few hours of presentations. Those presentations mainly focused on climate change and  fighting the effects of drought. Once again they were all very informative presentations. The meeting was concluded around noon and Jeff and I checked out of the hotel and took the shuttle to the airport for the long flight home. This flight was not as bad because Jeff and I knew each other better and the conversation was easier. Plus, there was someone from the conference on the flight with us. It was late when we finally landed in Green Bay. By then I was ready to get home to my own bed.

Going on that trip was a great learning experience and I had a great time. Boise is a beautiful city and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes were extremely welcoming and friendly. As was everyone at the conference. I would like to thank Chris Caldwell, Rebecca Edler, and all the staff at the Sustainable Development Institute for giving me the opportunity to represent them at the meeting. It was a trip that I will always remember.

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