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Natural Resource Regeneration Projects on US Tribal Lands

Speaker: Dr. Valerie A. Small, National Program Director, Trees, Water & People; Affiliate Faculty, Colorado State University, Department of Agricultural Biology

As the National Program Director at Trees Water & People (TWP), Dr. Small and her team engage with direct support for Indigenous nonprofits and natural resource experts within US Tribal Nations. TWP honors all Tribes as sovereign nations as original stewards of the land. We empower Tribal communities' restoration projects within their traditional and ancestral homelands to address the disproportionate impacts of climate change and restore healthy ecosystems through their unique cultural lens.

Dr. Small will discuss the important role that nonprofits can play in building tribal capacity in monitoring and management of reforestation and restoration of grasslands from which traditional flora and fauna are harvested to provide improved access to species utilized for food, fiber, medicine, and ceremony. Land Grant Universities have recently included Indigenous land acknowledgements to recognize the original Tribes upon which their lands are currently situated. However, land acknowledgements come with responsibilities, which include increased research opportunities for Indigenous students, including working with Tribal colleges; increasing student enrollment, hiring Indigenous faculty; and giving power-to-place opportunities for Indigenous voices through including traditional knowledges within western science-based ecological pedagogy. TWP’s projects are designed and led by the Tribal entity within which we work, are community-based, and emphasize restoration projects that bring together youth and Elders to facilitate the transfer of intergenerational traditional knowledges.

Dr. Small will conclude with key strategies of respectful Tribal engagement, data sovereignty recognition, and the role which nonprofits and local universities have towards respectful Tribal engagement in building capacity for restoring degraded ecosystems to heal Tribal homelands for generations yet to come.


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