Guest blog by Sam Barr, Samish Indian Nation & Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians

In the summer of 2022, a group of Stillaguamish and Samish tribal youth gathered in the Stillaguamish Valley within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The youth camped at the high elevation and used hand saws to remove encroaching evergreen trees that were beginning to over shade the berry bushes. Traditional management of huckleberry meadows included controlled burns conducted by the youth’s ancestors. Now, in this second year of this project, the group is hopeful to see the berry bushes returning stronger and with more berries in the coming years!

Youth crew limbing encroaching evergreen trees.

Part of the crew’s activities for the week also included time at Stillaguamish tribal property near Swede Heaven at the base of sx̌ədəlwaʔs (Mt Higgins) engaging in cultural immersion such as listening to tribal elders tell stories about the mountains and rivers, playing traditional Lushootseed language games, and canoeing in a dugout shovelnose canoe on the Stillaguamish River. Local Forest Service staff were also present and participating for many of these cultural enrichment activities.

Canoeing on the Stillguamish River.

One major benefit of this work is that public agency partners, such as the U.S. Forest Service, are able to get a better understanding of the long history and connection that Coast Salish people have to this landscape that they manage, and they are able to experience it along with members of from the tribal community.

For tribal youth, there is also the benefit of seeing land management as a career and the opportunity to learn aspects of the western science perspective of management, while also sharing some of their own tribal perspectives on land management.

Youth crew poses for photo at huckleberry gathering area.

Lastly, the biggest benefit of this trip is for the youth to be able to enjoy the territory with all their tribal cousins while camping and cooking outdoors!

National Forest Foundation