More than 1,200 Muckleshoot tribal and community members gathered in the rural foothills of Mount Rainier at the tribe’s Tomanamus Forest property for a community celebration this fall.
The tribe celebrates Tomanamus Community Day at Medicine Eagle Flats within the forest every fall. Salmon, elk, deer and medicinal teas are prepared and served. There are outdoor activities and traditional games, booths informing attendees about the many programs associated with the forest property as well as other tribal programs promoting wellness, education, and outdoor activities and careers.
“The tribe restored this nearly 100,000 acres of traditional territory to tribal members by purchasing it in 2013,” said Cinnamon Bear, a key organizer of the Tomanamus Community Day. “It’s a good way to familiarize the community with this property, how it’s managed, how the youth are involved in coming here to learn culture and job opportunities and how tribal members can access it and use it.”
Attendees were welcomed to the event by a carved sign designed by Muckleshoot tribal artist and carver, Keith Stevenson. The sign was erected by a Muckleshoot youth forestry crew as part of the summer work program, and included cutting and stripping the cedar poles used to mount the sign.
Hancock Forest Management (HFM), the company that carries out the tribe’s management plans on the property, had a booth detailing job openings as well as forestry practices used on the property. For example, before one unit was logged, tribal members were able to harvest cedar bark for baskets, hats, clothing and other uses. HFM also works with Muckleshoot Wildlife and Fisheries and other departments when planning these units.
Also displaying programs at the event was SSC Contractors, who are contracted by Muckleshoot to teach forestry skills to both adult and teen tribal members.
“I’ve seen lives changed from folks being outside, learning skills and feeling good about themselves,” said Bob Sokol, general manager for SSC Contractors.
Muckleshoot community members browsed the Muckleshoot Tribal School’s Forestry Club booth where they received cards showing many of the important cultural plants to be found on the property. Science instructor and Forestry Club advisor Benjamin Price teaches a “Tend, Gather, Grow” curriculum developed by a coalition of tribal educators led by Elise Krohn of the nonprofit Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB). This community-driven curriculum is designed to connect youth with plants, place and culture. Price brings students out to the property as often as possible, and is encouraged to do so by the Muckleshoot Tribal School administrators and commission.
As an example of applied learning, students engage in projects like calculating how much the forest aids in combating climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere.
“It’s applied science and math and the more they come out here, the more engaged they become,” Price said.
All the walking around to booths stirs up an appetite. Cooks prepared mounds of crab, salmon and shellfish on the fire and many hands, including youth, created foods such as duck bone broth, elderberrry syrup, teas of Douglas fir tips, dandelion leaves and rose hips.
“We see a future of culturally empowered Muckleshoot natural resource managers. The work we are doing here is all about preparing the land for those advocates and preparing the advocates to be better stewards of the land than we are today,” said Louie Ungaro, Muckleshoot tribal councilman and lead organizer for the gathering. “We are always thinking of our future and how it can be even better for not just the next generation of humans, but for all living things that dwell on these lands.”