What happens when we have a day of fun 8/2/14

I think I can declare August 2nd, 2014 as a day of vacationing. We didn’t have to meet with any representatives, so we had took this day to do all of our laundry. Lets not get into just how much there was to be done. So, to pass the time of waiting we had went boating out on Lava Lake. I took a bunch of photos pretty much everywhere I had went. Here is one picture taken of a flock of Merganzers we had encountered.

bunch of cool guys with orange feet

bunch of cool guys with orange feet

The very first time seeing these birds, we were just launching off of the boat dock and they were swimming in front of us. I remember looking away because I had a waterproof video recorder and was filming all around, and when I looked back I noticed that all of these birds were completely gone. I said “hey what the heck? Where’d they go?!” Sure enough, a minute later they all popped their heads out of the water in sync. I thought that was really awesome.

Aside from them there were Cormerants, at least one Osprey, and two American Bald Eagles. The Osprey and one of the Eagles were going at it for one moment, and I did try really hard to snap pictures of them but they were begrudgingly too far out of my camera’s  range. So I was forced to watch with only my own two achaash (eyes).

Once the Bald eagle versus Osprey spectacle had ended, we boated to the very far side of the lake and that was where I decided to jump into the water. Let me say here that it almost felt divine to go swimming there; my only hindering being that I wear contact lenses which prevents me from looking underwater. Regardless, Lava Lake is a gorgeous body of water and offers a wonderful backdrop of some mountains. The day we were there, a massive storm front hovered over a mountain range to the North east and the view likely could not have been any better.

Some of us who had gone boating out on Lava Lake

Some of us who had gone boating out on Lava Lake


Fire season discussion with the Forest Service 8/1/14

For the 1st of August, 2014 we talked with Resource Manager Colin Mcguigan who said he has 15 years in experience of what he has been doing in Natural Resources. He stated that job opportunity in Natural Resources is difficult at first, which is why it is common for new employees to take on a beginner level summer volunteer stint before eventually becoming recognized as someone who wants to work in this kind of field with a sense of passion and caring. I could see how passionate these folks were about working in the Forest Service whenever we met with them, therefore I can really understand what they mean by that.

Then to get into subject relating directly to the job that he is more involved in, Mcguigan described to us about “baseline monitoring”, which is basically how they determine (by category) how fires will be influenced. Say for instance, you see a twig on the ground. Mcguigan told us that twigs classify as a “10 hour fuel”, because twigs are no bigger than an inch in diameter. Trees, on the other hand would classify as a “1000 hour fuel” for having diameters of up to great proportions.

Lead field ranger Kevin Faus added that the Forest Service was devised to protect the watershed.

Below is a picture of a pine tree that had been struck by lightning.


We do have friends in far away places 7/31/14


Meeting with members of the Forest Service

Meeting with members of the Forest Service

– So, on July 31st 2014 was a day comprised of hiking and getting a good feel of Forest Service work. Tom Walker, a fisheries biologist, talked about the invasive Lodge pole Pine tree saying that some of the other species of pine trees have been falling in a decline due to being forced aside from the lodge pole pine tree species. So we had a chance to rummage through a selected area that had lodge pole pine seedlings and practice “gardening” in the style of the Forest Service. Spotted Knapweed was the other focus of the bright and warm sunny morning, which is an invasive weed species trying to flourish in Oregon.

We had even turned this activity into a friendly competition amongst ourselves to see who could pull the most lodge pole pine trees. I won the 10 minute challenge and incurred a reward of a nice, cold box of otter pop popsicles. As you can see, this was a fun day to go out and do some actual field work that would help the Forest Service to conduct their normal tasks. Not only that, but to help partake in preserving something that is vital to the world in many ways was not like anything I have done before. I had wondered what sort of things the Forest Service does, and now I get to say that I know a thing or two. Plus, it was a great feeling to hear of the people we had encountered this day who were so respectful of the many Native American traditions and cultures. It really made me feel like they were simply just as conscious about the well being of the world as Native Americans are.

DSC_0153Once we finished with that, they took us to Tumalo Falls so that we could view the creek from a tourist-purpose overlooks. I took this shot of the falls with my Nikon from the first overlook. The waterfall was 97 feet high, and the water itself looked very clean and healthy.

A visual taste of history 7/30/14 (pt. 2)

from the Warm Springs Museum

from the Warm Springs Museum

– Early morning on July 30th, 2014 we went to the Museum of Warm Springs in Oregon to tour their amazing museum. Containing things from text from the Treaty of 1855, to life sized tule mat teepee dwellings and a wide variety of poster-like depictions of the history of the tribe, as well as a walk-in mini theatre that would play a short film along with a couple of stories that would recycle throughout the day for people to experience, one of which was called “Coyote and the Stars” . I enjoyed listening to that legend.

We then met museum host speaker Arlita Rhoan, who is 78, and sat together as she told us many things. Hailing from the “Suppak family”, Rhoan spoke of the time when she was offered the chance to teach her native language. “I had no idea how I was going to teach the language”. Before speaking of that, she had said that she had not learned to speak English until she was 11. It was great to hear her talk in front of us. It was also wonderful to see her appearing to be in such good health for her age as well!

Day two of visiting the Warm Springs tribe, 7/30/14 (pt. 1)

– On July 30th, 2014 we visited Jason Smith and his associates again for a little conference-type of meeting. They had a power point presentation ready that covered the issue of wild Horses living on their reservation, as well as their ceded land (which is about ten times larger than the reservation itself). Smith went over topics such as breeding amongst the feral Horses and how to effectively limit their yearly rates of reproduction, what adverse effects the animals will have on the landscapes if they remained unchecked, and even Juniper encroachment.

If nothing was done about their breeding habits, Horses would expand their population and increase the rate of which they overgraze on the grass that they eat. The power point showed us a two picture “before and after” that depicted that very problem manifesting over 20 years ago. On the left picture was a very lush creek surrounded by vegetation. The picture on the right, in contrast, showed a much more barren land complete with an utter lack of overall foliage. The river banks were washed away because there were no trees that grew there to hold all of the soil in place. Without their presence, erosion occurred and turned the once-white waters of the creek into a brown and very dirty body of running water. This was what overgrazing had done to the land there.

I thought it was really neat that they gave us the floor to ask them questions once the presentation had ended. Smith was open to every inquiry, and showed how knowledgeable he was in his field of work. I asked about how many new people choose to join the struggle every year right there on their reservation, and Smith answered saying that he has about 20 members in his crew.

Judging from what I see in the world as well as the surroundings, it does not seem like there is a very high turn-out of new “Cowboys” willing to saddle up to take a part in this effort. I had even overheard them talking about the reality that “people just don’t do this anymore” and I could not help but silently agree. Different reservation, but the situation feels so familiar. My thinking is that many of the youth are engrossed in sports and want to be part of the modern world filled with mainstream trends and video game consoles. I recall Smith saying that back in the 70’s and 80’s (?) the horse industry was gaining a great deal of business. Back when people were much more active and involved outside as compared to today.


Even though it seems that hardly anyone pays any attention now, I can see from my involvement that this is an issue that should not be ignored. While everyone resumes living and letting the Cowboys take care of everything, little do they know that the effects can affect them more than they realize. A portion of everyone’s taxes go to companies and business people who go out and conduct the work that ensures that the Horse populations are not allowed to grow out of hand. On top of that, the animals will sometimes trample large swaths of traditional roots that lie seeded in the ground. If a wild herd grows large enough, all of the cultural foods could be ruined. Then there is the problem of overgrazing which will affect entire areas of land if nothing is done about it quickly.

If the issue were to grow even bigger, I imagine the tax expenses may rise a little more because what little number of people who are trying their best each day to contain the issue signifies that their small numbers simply are not capable of paying for the operations on their own. Smith added to that by saying that the political side of this reveals that people will always wonder what is going on. If no one is out there working and containing the problem, they will sit and wonder “why is no one stepping up to tackle this?” And then Smith added that even after the problem starts to show signs of improvement, and those who are making the effort have begun the business side handling and feeding these Horses, people will still wonder and ask “Well, what is being done now as far as how exactly are these workers conducting their business?” and sort of gave me the impression that no matter what is happening, there will always be people in power trying to regulate every last little thing once they are informed of it enough.

From my viewpoint, which is a tad bit biased because I myself had had the experience of “chasing wild horses” until they end up in a corral and I know that it takes quite a lot of effort and teamwork to find success. Not to mention that the cowboys usually go riding to do their work when it is 90 degrees or higher, they have on jeans, and expend a lot of energy out in the open ground to the point that they all return sweaty and dirty.


Once we had gone through all of that, we made our way to our next overnight camp ground which is located over an hour south of Madras, Oregon (stating this because our previous camp site lied roughly 10 minutes away from Madras, called KOA Kampgrounds).

Below is a photo I had taken showing the cowboys “putting in work” at their remote corral location.DSC_0092

How the west is still being fought for 7/29/14

I would like to apologize for not keeping my blogs updated daily. To continue on with it, I will post a series of blogs for each day that I have not blogged as of yet, which is pretty much the past 10 or so days! Here goes nothing.


– On July 29th, 2014 I had hoped we would get the chance to go for some horseback riding after meeting with representatives from NTHC at the Warm Springs Community Center. Arriving there at around 8:30 a.m., Range and Agriculture Manager Jason Smith took us into his field of work out at a large rodeo grounds that his crew based their operations at. Complete with a barred fence that had an actual rodeo arena; they showed us their corrals and even demonstrated to us how they use their “hydraulic squeeze shoot”. Costing around $60,000 to construct, as well as requiring roughly 6 months to build it, “Harry” remained open to conversation with all of us while he operated the machine. What it does is encase a Horse inside a padded chamber, which then tilts the horse sideways once a person commands the shoot to do so. Given the size of these animals, I think I can safely assume that the holding power of this machine is pretty strong!

Next, they open small window-like openings so that they can begin doing their duties such as working on the “shoes” worn on their hooves.

Aside from learning of that, we got to get to know Harry a little. Referring to himself as a “Range Rider”, Harry said that he has been doing this kind of labor since about the year 2000, with the exception of two years due to him attending, and graduating from Mount Hood Community College in June of 2009. He has gone on to talk about his experiences with horses, revealing that he has sold around 300 in his time there, which is a desired act that they are greatly encouraged to do (more on that discussion later). Harry had even said that he has a wild Mustang in the herd that he had acquired from Oklahoma, and added that the Mustang was the toughest horse he had out there. “When the days’ halfway over, and all the hybrids are getting tired that Mustang is still running around like it’s nothing!”

Warm Springs, when we met with Jason Smith and his cowboy crew at their handling facility

Warm Springs, when we met with Jason Smith and his cowboy crew at their handling facility

Soon afterwards, we all had moved to a corral location up the road from their main facility so that we could witness their crew ride horseback up a hillside to usher in a herd of wild Horses. So, a majority of us had gone out into the open and found a great viewpoint atop of a red clay cone shaped hill. From there, we could easily hear, and see all of the riders at least a half mile away from us as they began chasing the horses that had been in the area. What a sight it was to see them chasing the Horses across the open terrain all the way into their awaiting corral!

Here is a photograph that I had taken while we stood on a tall hill to watch the cowboys “corral” in a herd a wild Horses.


Day one of People of Big River 2014 in the books 7/28/14

Hello, it’s just me doing a recap of what we have done for the day. To begin, we have had a set back due to unknown circumstances that caused a High School student to arrive late this morning. So while we were all waiting to take off, I decided that it wasn’t a bad idea to be asked a few questions by a KAPP TV reporter dude. I had basically got into talking about what I happen to expect from this two week Heritage University course, given that I had informed the camera guy that this was my first time being involved with this class.

So things went well there, enough so that the video was going to be streamed to their evening news segments for the local communities to see. I was kind of excited to learn of that! (I shall try and post a video link of it in a future blog post if I can manage it).

Fast track forward, and we found ourselves arriving to Horsethief Lake where we got a chance to look at preserved petroglyphs left behind by past generations of Indigenous locals. I had never been here before, so I thought that being there to get a good look at what was there was a real nice treat. As a Native American, seeing these ancient glyphs on the rocks and walls was humbling. I wonder who placed them there (meaning who in particular, given that it seems possible that their descendants live with us today)? I also wondered how exactly did they carve the images into the stone surfaces? Did they utilize rocks? Or did they use some other means of enabling themselves to, in essence, write? Then there is the more obvious question that every intrigued person would inquire, Why did they leave these markings? After we had completed our little hike, we went swimming to pass a little time because you know, what better way to get out of the heat?

Petroglyphs near Horsethief Lake, on the Columbia River, Southern border of Washington St. and Oregon

Petroglyphs near Horsethief Lake, on the Columbia River, Southern border of Washington St. and Oregon

That was when I happened upon what appeared to be a larval stage Dragonfly, tucked inside of a hollowed out tree branch that had drifted towards me in the lake. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it for a few minutes. The thing was goldish-brown, and I believe its wings were just beginning to undergo development because it had no apparent wings to travel. How did it get there? By chance perhaps, having already been inside of the branch as it broke off from a tree? Did it manage to find its way there? And its posterior was moving. Last I remember, Dragonflies don’t seem to be able to wriggle their back end body like a lizard or something. I suppose even they want to enjoy a lovely day if they get the chance, so I ended up letting it go after it fell off the branch and landed on my left hand. The water was perfect, too.

Later on, as we were drawing near to our last destination for the day, I saw Twin Sisters to the south-west of us. I have never traveled Oregon beyond Pendleton and the Portland areas until today, so seeing the mountains there was awesome to me because by then simply looking due north of those peaks I could look at Mount Hood. The tent that I am sleeping in for the night faces away from this sight, as does my fold up chair. That means that while I am doing this blog, or when I am sitting here doing something else if I am not going off to dream land, I know that I have the scenery of a very beautiful and very exciting landscape behind me. That alone tends to give me a strong sense of belonging in this world, in a natural and “we are all connected” kind of way. To be able to travel here to Koa Kampgrounds a few miles south of Madras, Oregon from Toppenish, WA. and gaze upon natural structures that have existed here for countless millennia while knowing that I myself have only existed here for a measly 27 years. I can honestly say that I feel blessed to have the opportunity to see it all.

That should be all for the night. Tomorrow we will be doing things the Cowboy way by going horseback riding and working around a corral. I must say, I have not ridden a horse for years. I can hardly wait to do so once again.

– Michael P.

POBR 2014 Intro blog

Shix Maytski (Good Morning) readers! This is just a simple test blog update, to show that I, Michael Pierre, will be doing some blogging for this Heritage University course called People of Big River 2014. I hope to learn from the experiences that will come from this field trip course, and someday implement what I have gained into my career. As a student of Heritage University, as well as an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation Tribe of Indians, I do look forward to seing what this two week course will offer!


– Michael P.