Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County
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Cooperative Extension San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: Native people

USDA awards UC and Karuk Tribe $1.2 million for collaborative research and education to increase tribal ecosystem resilience in a changing climate

The USDA-funded Tribal Food Security Project team includes members of the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Tribes along with UC researchers. In front row, Jennifer Sowerwine is second from left and UCCE farm advisor Deborah Giraud is far right. Photo courtesy of Karuk Píkyav Field Institute.

As California and the nation grapple with the implications of persistent drought, devastating wildfires and other harbingers of climate change, researchers at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources are building on a decade-long partnership with the Karuk Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station to learn more about stewarding native food plants in fluctuating environmental conditions. UC Berkeley and the Karuk Tribe have been awarded a $1.2 million USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant for field research, new digital data analysis tools and community skill-building aimed to increase resilience of the abundant cultural food and other plant resources – and the tribal people whose food security and health depend on them.

Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative, and Lisa Hillman, program manager of the Karuk Tribe's Píkyav Field Institute, will co-lead the xúus nu'éethti – we are caring for it research project.

UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Karuk Department of Natural Resources will support the project with postdoctoral researchers, botany, mapping and GIS specialists, and tribal cultural practitioners and resource technicians. Frank Lake, research ecologist and tribal climate change liaison at the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station, will contribute to research and local outreach activities. The San Rafael-based nonprofit Center for Digital Archaeology will help develop a new data modeling system.

Project activities include expanding the tribe's herbarium (a research archive of preserved cultural plants launched in 2016 with UC Berkeley support), developing digital tools to collect and store agroecological field data, and helping tribal community members and youth learn how to analyze the results.

“For the xúus nu'éethti – we are caring for it research project, UC ANR's Informatics and Geographic Information Systems (IGIS) team will lead hands-on workshops and consultations to build Karuk Tribal capacity to assess, monitor and make management decisions regarding the agroecosystem,” Sowerwine said. “Workshop curricula for tribal staff and community members will include GIS training, 360 photospheres and drone images, and storymapping techniques. ​IGIS will also provide technical analysis of historical land use and land cover records to support researchers' understanding of agroecological resilience over time.”

Sowerwine, right, shown cleaning tanoak mushrooms, an important cultural food, will study effects of climate change on the Karuk food system.

“We are delighted to continue our connection with UC Berkeley through this new project,” said Hillman. “Through our past collaboration on tribal food security, we strengthened a network of tribal folks knowledgeable in identifying, monitoring, harvesting, managing for and preparing the traditional foods that sustain us physically and culturally. With this new project, we aim to integrate variables such as climate change, plant pathogens and invasive species into our research and management equations, learning new skills and knowledge along the way and sharing those STEM skills with the next generation.”

The research team will assess the condition of cultural agroecosystems including foods and fibers to understand how land use, land management, and climate variables have affected ecosystem resilience. Through planning designed to maximize community input, they will develop new tools to inform land management choices at the federal, state, tribal and community levels.

All project activities will take place in the Karuk Tribe's Aboriginal Territory located in the mid-Klamath River Basin, but results from the project will be useful to other tribes and entities working toward sustainable management of cultural natural resources in an era of increasing climate variability. Findings will be shared nationwide through cooperative extension outreach services and publications.

The new project's name, xúus nu'éethti – we are caring for it, reflects the Karuk Tribe's continuing commitment to restore and enhance the co-inhabitants of its aboriginal territory whom they know to be their relations – plants, animals, fish, water, rocks and land. At the core of Karuk identity is the principle of reciprocity: one must first care for these relations in order to receive their gifts for future generations.

This work will be supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Resilient Agroecosystems in a Changing Climate Challenge Area, grant no. 2018-68002-27916 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information, visit the Karuk – UC Berkeley Collaborative website at

Posted on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 2:33 PM

UC ANR research center is site of archaeological learning

Students try to put together the pieces of broken pottery they have located and mapped. It's not always easy when others have taken some of the pieces as keepsakes.
When a researcher determined that Native American marking on boulders at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County could date back as much as 8,000 years, the staff and scientists at the center began pondering their role in stewardship of the archaeological treasure. 

What kind of behavior is appropriate around such important discoveries? Can we touch these markings without degrading them further? Can we show them to the public? How do our tribal partners feel about such finds? How do they affect land management decisions?

The questions led to a partnership with the local Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) Shawn Padi of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians and a public event at Hopland, “Archaeology for All." The Oct. 10 event featured UC Berkeley archaeologist Donna Gillette and THPO's Padi and Hillary Renick.

As one of the nine UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers (RECs) across California, Hopland REC offers opportunities for research projects across a variety of disciplines, particularly those requiring rangeland, oak woodland and chaparral environments. While respecting that need, the center managers are also committed to being exemplary stewards of the land, setting examples and raising awareness as methods are changed and improved.

Gillette began research at HREC in 2006, when it became evident that some of the ancient petroglyph style markings on the 5,358-acre site were thought to date back two millennia. Many of these markings take the form of circles carved into large rocks and are described as “pecked, curvilinear, nucleated” markings (PCNs). Gillette's work indicated that these markings were in fact between 5,000 to 8,000 years old, pre-dating Pomo culture (as we know it).

Over 100 members of the public attended the Oct. 10 event to discuss local history and cultural markings that might be found on the landscape. They learned why it is important to leave any discoveries of artifacts or markings just as found and report them to a local THPO. Children got the chance to become archaeologists themselves and saw directly how difficult it can be to piece together history when pieces of the story might have been removed or broken.

The challenge of balancing current demands on natural resources and culturally important sites can be complex. However, learning from the history of people in the area is a vital step in understanding sustainable use and behavior for the future. The Hopland Research and Extension Center has benefited greatly from relationships such as those with local THPOs. Their knowledge is integral to future land management decisions.

Author: Hannah Bird

Posted on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 9:59 AM
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