August 12, 2012 in City, Idaho

Residents keep track of interaction with river

By The Spokesman-Review
 

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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