By Ronnie Schelby, USACEJuly 15, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Members of the Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise attended a training event for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tribal Nations community of practice in Walla Walla, Washington, June 17-19.
Established in November 2015, the TNTCX supports initiatives with Native American communities for USACE, Department of Defense, state and local governments, and Tribal Nations throughout the country.
During the training, the group met with members of the Nez Perce Tribe whose reservation is located in the vicinity of Orofino, Idaho.
"The tribal liaison training is crucial in distributing the tools and information necessary for working with the nation's Native American communities," said Dr. Ron Kneebone, TNTCX director. "Native American governments differ from the rest of the nation not only in culture, but also in their political and legal relationship to the federal government. The annual tribal liaison training emphasizes that unique relationship and the skills needed to work with those societies successfully," he said.
The Nez Perce, along with three other Columbia River tribes, collaborate with the USACE's Walla Walla District on the management of anadromous fisheries on the Columbia River. The running of the anadromous steelhead trout, on the Clearwater River in Idaho, has been an important cultural activity for the Nez Perce, and has been integral to their way of living for centuries.
USACE constructed the Dworshak Dam on the Clearwater River in 1966. The dam, which stands 750 feet tall, is the highest straight-axis concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere. The dam resides within the Nez Perce Reservation.
Construction of the dam interrupted the running of the trout. In order to mitigate this interference, the Corps of Engineers constructed the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery.
This hatchery is the largest steelhead hatchery in the world, according to the USACE Walla Walla District website. The hatchery is funded in part by USACE, and is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nez Perce Tribe.
As part of the training event, Kneebone, program analyst Matthew Grunewald, and Corps of Engineers tribal liaisons visited the Dworshak facilities in order to provide USACE participants hands-on experience of how the Corps and Tribal Nations work together to address important environmental and mitigation issues.
The group also visited the Nez Perce National Historical Park Spalding Visitor Center, located just west of Lewiston, Idaho. The Nez Perce National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park comprising 38 sites located throughout the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which include traditional aboriginal lands of the Nez Perce people.
Kneebone and Grunewald also had the opportunity to meet with Lt. Col. Christian Dietz, commander, USACE Walla Walla District, to discuss potential partnering opportunities with the Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise.
The TNTCX offices of director Ron Kneebone and program manager Beverley Hayes are located in the USACE Albuquerque District. In an effort to support tribes across the nation, the TNTCX also has a field office located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at the University of Alabama.
The Tuscaloosa location was selected because the southeastern part of the United States is the original homeland of many Tribal Nations.
"What I find most gratifying about my job is the ability to assist communities in addressing some of their most serious challenges. Every project that USACE completes assists not only those individual communities, but can also improves the quality of life or an entire region," said Kneebone.
Tribal communities in the southeast area are seeking to reestablish their connection with their homeland. The tribes are working to restore their ancestral land by partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. By having two locations, the TNTCX is able to reach out to more tribes throughout the nation.