The Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation
Environmental Education Program
Owyhee Combined School, Duck Valley Reservation, Idaho/Nevada, USA
In 2021, we launched a collaborative environmental education program with the Duck Valley Owyhee Combined School, the Shoshone-Paiute (Sho-Pai) Tribal Environmental Protection Program (TEPP), and the North American Native Research and Education Foundation (NANREF). Like many Native tribes, the Sho-Pai face disproportionate environmental burdens related to mining, fisheries collapse, and lack of representation of Native students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
With our partners, we are supporting the development of a holistic educational program called “One Habitat” (Sumu’yoo Tupippuh). One Habitat blends traditional ecological knowledge and western science to understand the impacts of dams, climate change, and water quality on environmental and human health. This program aims to increase Sho-Pai students' environmental science competency, increase the number of students pursuing environmental science/STEM higher education and jobs, and to improve the riparian ecosystem on the reservation. Students are engaged in classroom workshops, field trips, field activities, scientific conferences, and community presentations. These events incorporate both Indigenous and western perspectives encouraging students to consider the components of riparian health as part of the overall ecosystem function to benefit wildlife and humans. Through engagement in this program, students will be better prepared to understand and address local environmental challenges related to mining, water quality issues, impacted salmon and beaver populations, riparian ecosystem function, and climate change.
One Habitat is a foundation for future collaborations to assess and mitigate environmental degradation issues – including mining pressures and climate change impacts – faced by the Sho-Pai Tribe.
We’ve delivered a diverse array of activities under the One Habitat program. In 2021, we worked with students, teachers, tribal elders, and program partners to relocate “problem” beavers from irrigation canals to upstream stretches of the East Fork of the Owyhee River. During this event, students learned Shoshone and Paiute words for wildlife and habitats along the river corridor. They also tested surface water in the canals and the upstream riparian area and compared results. In 2022, we went “Lekking” with students. This is observing Sage Grouse perform mating rituals. The students set up and used scopes and binoculars, practiced field observation skills, and learned about Sage Grouse habits and diets.
An underappreciated but looming threat on the reservation is rapid development of mining sites to power low-carbon energy demands. We presented a workshop to students and teachers about mining and low-carbon technology before visiting the approved Thacker Pass lithium mine near the DVIR’s sister reservation, Fort McDermitt. Students met with representatives from Lithium Nevada. The students also heard from Tribal Elders about the story of “Rotten Moon” and why the area is so culturally important to the Paiute and Shoshone peoples.