For tribes, the struggle between sharing culture and protecting it from being used by nontribal people for profit is a part of daily life.
The Nisqually Tribe is determining what information will be shared at public park sites on both Nisqually land and public spaces that traverse ancestral lands. For example, identifying important cultural plants is part of protecting them but the knowledge could lead to misuse and exploitation.
The Nisqually Tribe is responsible for a myriad of park lands, including properties on the reservation and at Lake St. Clair, Medicine Creek Springs, an exclusive use area at Mount Rainier, and lands surrounding Nisqually State Park. The tribe has a cooperative agreement to assist with state park development, including interpretive signage.
Recently, a community gathering was held to get input about park lands owned by the tribe as well as public parks that include Nisqually traditional areas.
Nisqually tribal member Chelsie Sharp coordinated gathering the input.
“This will give the tribe some idea of what the community wants to see in their parks,” Sharp said. “We don’t have a master plan yet that covers the various park lands, so this is a good start.”
Tribal members gathered at large round tables and filled out sticky notes to add to poster-sized question boards. Additionally, they filled out a survey ranking the top three improvements they would like to see at Nisqually parks or at Mount Rainier.
Improvements might include more art, native plantings, signage, picnic shelters, more developed walking trails or additional covered basketball courts.
Community involvement in parks development is key, said Nisqually tribal member Jasmine McDonald, who participated in the event.
“I think that tribal and community member participation in the planning process is a vital piece to community engagement, which brings valuable ideas to the planning process,” McDonald said.
Building trust in the process and with those doing the planning helps provide better outcomes now and in the future, she said.
“Meetings with the community like this allow us to make plans and move forward,” said Tony Sanchez, vice chairman of the Nisqually Parks Commission.
Lisa Breckenridge, parks development specialist for the Nisqually Tribe, was pleased with the turnout and valuable input.
“We have used Nisqually AmeriCorps and our parks staff to do upkeep and some improvements, but community-based strategic planning allows us to think about things beyond basic maintenance and about future developments the community wants to see as well as the kind of information they want to share.”