DUPONT, Wash. -- Banners representing each of Washington state's Native American tribes line a refurbished dairy barn on a hill in DuPont. This is the setting for the state's first tribal summit on natural resources. This is their chance to let state land managers know what's important to them and how they can protect plants and animals used for food and medicine and access to them.
"Well, I think it becomes much more of a critical issue to them as population increases and their access to these traditional materials is more hampered," said Washington state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, who called for the summit.
It seems informal with feasts planned for both days of the two day event, but according to Goldmark, it's serious business. The menu includes the very items the tribes want to protect:
Bitter root from the Northeast part of the state
Berries from the Columbia River Basin
Salmon and shellfish from the Western beaches and rivers
The tribes are worried about commercial harvests of some plants, like huckleberries, are threatening their supplies.
"We want to preserve our traditional foods so we can preserve our traditions for later generations," said James Slape of the Nisqually Tribe.
The state and tribes have had an understanding on access to state owned lands for decades, but this is the first time they've gathered to meet face-to-face to discuss natural resources and how to protect for both tribal and non-tribal residents.