Residents keep track of interaction with river

SUNDAY, AUG. 12, 2012

Huckleberries, venison and salmon.

Bitterroot and willowbark.

Fishing, swimming and sweat lodges.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have wrapped up a 17-month study of how its members and others living on the 1.4 million-acre reservation along the Columbia River use the land and its resources.

During the study, more than 1,500 people kept detailed records of what they ate; where they fished, boated and swam; and where they hunted and gathered plants for food, traditional crafts and ceremonial use.

“It was a huge effort,” said Cindy Marchand, the tribe’s Superfund coordinator. “It showed us that residents care about the environment. They want to continue to live a subsistence lifestyle.”

The survey is one of the nation’s most comprehensive studies of how contemporary indigenous people interact with the environment, said Marc Stifelman, a toxicologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they hunted or gathered plants and roots. More than one-third fished.

With high rates of diabetes on the reservation, a number of the respondents said they were interested in eating healthy, natural foods. However, they were also concerned about the potential for heavy-metals exposure, Marchand said. The survey will help the tribe identify potential pollution exposures.

Initial study results provide a snapshot of resources used by people living on the Colville Reservation. Later analysis will provide a more detailed look at consumption rates, including how much fish the reservation’s residents eat on a daily basis.

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