EM is involved in the cleanup of nuclear waste at nationwide sites and facilities. The waste, a result of the production of nuclear weapons, has affected sovereign Tribal nations located near these facilities. These Tribal nations have been impacted by different types of waste contamination, and their participation in the EM mission is critical.
The Department and the Tribes have engaged in a wide range of issues under established cooperative agreements. The projects initiated by DOE and the Tribes are meeting the Department's two-fold mission of cleaning up America's environmental legacy and addressing environmental concerns for America's future.
The following projects demonstrate how DOE and Tribes work together to successfully preserve, protect, and enhance the environment by utilizing Tribal knowledge.
Santa Fe Indian School - DOE values the importance of education and supports initiatives to help educate and train tomorrow's scientists and engineers. Specifically, EM continues to support an innovative program at the Santa Fe Indian School, which encourages Tribal youth to consider careers in scientific and technical areas of environmental protection. In a community-based approach, students learn hands-on environmental monitoring and analytical skills. They work with Pueblo environmental program staff in water and wildlife monitoring as well as cultural resource protection activities. What the students learn in the classroom is applied in field work important to the Department's clean-up activities.
Tribal “Oral Histories” Project - The Department worked in partnership with several Tribes to capture the stories of native peoples as they were impacted by the development of the nuclear arsenal and the subsequent cleanup of the weapons complex. The project yielded additional information about the sites to assist the Environmental Management program in its remediation activities. Additionally, the Tribal "Oral Histories" project brought to light the wisdom and knowledge of Tribal elders and members in a way that furthers the Department's understanding about the significance of Tribal culture and the Indian Tribes' inherent relationship with the environment. Furthermore, the project has continued to increase Tribal members' understanding of the nuclear age and the challenges faced by the Department in addressing the cleanup of its sites.
Salmon Corps - Native American youth from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs, and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in the Northwest United States restored the chinook salmon population of the Columbia River. This effort, known as Salmon Corps, arose out of AmeriCorps program. Tribal youth used immense man-made pools at Hanford that once held hundreds of tons of water to cool nuclear reactors for salmon rearing and acclimation. After the salmon outgrow their temporary home, they were released into the Columbia River. In addition, the youth rehabilitated declining Columbia River salmon habitat, which was crucial for increased salmon population.
Tribal Colleges Initiative (TCI) - As Tribes continue to build environmental programs, they are also encouraging Native American college students at Tribal colleges to consider careers in the environmental sciences. With the help of the TCI, Tribal colleges and universities are meeting the demand of Tribes seeking qualified Native American scientists and engineers with the skills necessary for protecting and preserving the environment. EM provided critical developmental support to TCI.