Securing Our Fruit Trees

Group of about 25 people in a field with pruning tools. Evergreens in background.

MKWC pruning workshop with Food Policy Council for Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Lands. DNATL photo.


Mark Dupont of Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) has put together a beautiful how-to manual on the care of neglected fruit trees, based on MKWC, the Karuk Tribe, and the Salmon River Restoration Council‘s five years of collaborative work to restore local orchards as part of the Food Security Project. Here’s a preview:

Orchard Revitalization and Heirloom Fruit of the Klamath and Salmon Rivers: Preserving the Past, Securing the Future


You’ve probably seen them, on the edge of the woods, or in a clearing that was once a homestead. Old fruit trees blend into the surroundings – they’re hardly noticeable until they’re covered in blossoms in spring, or heavy with fruit in the fall. They stand quietly year after year, with no care or tending, no pruning, irrigation, or fertilization. Yet somehow they survive, and even thrive, producing fruit year after year. They’ve become part of the landscape, and each has a story to tell: of a great grandfather who managed to obtain a seedling or a graft from some faraway place, of a family that planted and tended the orchard, of kids who grew up in the shade of the trees and picked and ate the fruit through the summer and fall.

These old legacy trees are not only part of the past; they are an important part of a bioregional food system, vital for the present and the future. They have survived years of drought, heavy winter snow and freezing, heat waves, and intense storms. Those still standing and producing have proven to be well-adapted to their habitat’s specific soils, pests and microclimate, and they produce food with little or no extra water and care. Many of these trees are unique, one-of a- kind plants, and nearing the end of their lifespans. Once they are gone they can never be retrieved.

Since 2012, the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources (KDNR), the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), and the Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) have collaborated to revitalize these long-standing orchard sites and save these heirloom tree varieties for future generations. Technicians from KDNR and SRRC have mapped old orchard sites, making baseline resource assessments, and regenerating conventional and cultural resources through restorative pruning and clearing blackberries and other competing vegetation. Field crews from all three organizations have identified the most promising trees with permanent markers and cataloged fruit by photographing and recording detailed descriptions. Through a series of workshops, community members have learned how to restore their own orchards through regenerative pruning, top working trees with heirloom varieties, and how to graft their own seedling fruit trees. Project partners have grafted approximately two hundred seedling trees to be planted in the community; and the Salmon River Restoration Council will be planting a Community Heirloom Orchard in the town of Forks of Salmon. MKWC purchased a community apple press which now circulates extensively within the river communities, making cider from hundreds of pounds of apples that were previously underutilized.

This publication aims to inform our local river communities, and beyond, of the work that has been accomplished in revitalizing local orchards and saving heirloom varieties, and provide inspiration and resources for continuing these efforts.

Hard copies of the full manual will be available soon at MKWC and the Karuk Department of Natural Resources in Orleans, CA, and online at the MKWC Foodsheds website.

Five Years Building Tribal Food Security: What we’ve done, what’s next

AFRI Food Security Team members. Stormy Staats photo.

Recently, the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project held our fifth and final all-team meeting, hosted by the Klamath Tribes near Chiloquin, Oregon. These annual meetings bring together Food Security staff from the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Tribes, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), UC Berkeley, UC Extension, and the USDA Forest Service to share information about our programs in different river locations, exchange ideas and get advice, and celebrate project milestones in the effort to build more food security in the Basin.

On Day 1, after a warm welcome from Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry, we shared updates from project sites in the Upper, Mid and Lower Klamath River Basin. Recent milestones include:

  • Launch of the Karuk Tribe’s new Píkyav Field Institute, which houses programs designed to support culturally relevant, academically challenging, and traditionally holistic environmental education benefiting Tribal and non-Tribal students in the Karuk Tribal Service Area.
  • Completion of the Klamath Tribes’ 4th community greenhouse, located at Hilyard Tribal Elder Housing in Klamath Falls.
  • Post-burn acorn harvesting with Yurok and Karuk families that showed improved acorn quality and collecting efficiency.
  • Workshops on Traditional Pit Oven Baking, Chicken Tractor Fabrication, Salmon Smokehouse Building, Seed Saving and much more.
  • Over 200 new heirloom fruit trees, grafted and cared for by MKWC and Karuk Food Security crews, now ready to plant (want one? Talk to Heather Campbell at MKWC!)
  • Karuk Tribe’s Nanu’ávaha: K-12 Native Food System Curriculum, now with 52 lessons focused on cultural foods, traditions, and language that meet state education standards and are being piloted in mid-Klamath schools.
  • 7 new Tribal Master Gardeners trained and supporting community gardening in the Upper Basin.
  • 78 students graduated from Klamath Tribes’ 5- week Seed to Supper classes.
  • New Karuk and Yurok Tribal Herbaria housing collections of culturally and regionally important plants used for food, fiber and medicine, that can help answer future questions about environmental change.
  • Building strategic partnerships and developing new approaches to elk management and elk habitat revitalization in Karuk aboriginal territory.
  • Mid Klamath Foodshed Facebook page has 723 members exchanging food-related information.
  • A total of 914 workshops, activities and events reached 10,504 people (including many repeat participants) over 4 years!

We reflected on the enduring impact we expect our programs to have, and aspects of the work worth expanding on in the future. Some ideas for the future include:

  • Opening a Native Plant Nursery for restoration projects
  • Starting a culinary arts and catering “school” for Native youth
  • Developing a Tribal farm or ranch
  • Expanding the Herbaria to use as land management research tools
  • Sharing our findings in policy briefs to influence decision-makers
  • Continuing to share out long-term results and new activities in our newsletter
  • Organizing Food Security conferences to share our successes and lessons learned
  • Planning UC Cooperative Extension workshops to provide training statewide in building successful partnerships between UCCE and Tribes.

(Want to be part of this discussion? It’s not too late to take our survey! You can also contact your local Food Security Coordinator with your ideas.)

We also took a first look at Basin-wide findings compiled by the UC Berkeley Food Security team from the unique Tribal Food System Assessment conducted over two of the project’s five years with the help and input of all three Tribal communities. Analysis of 711 surveys, 20 focus groups and 112 one-on-one interviews show clear trends in the barriers Tribal people face in getting enough fresh, healthy and culturally appropriate food, along with their desires for better food access. We discussed possible uses of the data including advocating for policy changes to address some of the top barriers reported by Tribal communities. A full report from the Food System Assessment will be available later this year – stay tuned for community gatherings where we will share out more about what we’ve learned.

Wocus seeds. Edith Friedman photo.

On Day 2, Klamath Tribes Food Security Coordinator Perri McDaniel led a tour of the local watershed. At Agency Lake, Tribal Chairman Don Gentry explained the Tribe’s work to restore the wetlands of Upper Klamath Lake, including successful reintroduction of wocus (the Klamath and Modoc word for yellow pond lily, Nuphar polysepalum) to one of the most polluted water bodies in the world. A visit to the Klamath’s origins at Spring Creek, the confluence of Spring Creek and the Williamson River, and the Wood River rounded out the tour.

We spent the morning of Day 3 evaluating our own experience as staff of the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project. Many of us have been working together for five years or even longer, and the Food Security Project means a lot to us! We hope to have the opportunity to work together again in the future. In the meantime, Food Security events continue through July and August – see the current newsletter calendar for details. We hope you’ll join us soon.

Managing land for Tribal goals: researchers share findings at the Píkyav Lecture Series

Sibyl Diver describing co-management strategies. Bari Talley photo.

On Thursday, April 20th, two affiliates of the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative and the AFRI Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Initiative presented their research to the community as part of the Píkyav Lecture Series organized by the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources.   The newly launched Píkyav Field Institute aims to improve the academic performance and college and career readiness of Karuk tribal youth. The lecture series is conceptualized to expand opportunities to learn from the time-honored traditional knowledge, practice and belief systems of their ancestors, as well as learn about the Karuk Tribe and academic partners’ collaborative research done over the past decade within the Tribe’s Aboriginal Territory and with Karuk Cultural Practitioners. The series began with two lectures (4/6 and 4/12) on Sudden Oak Death led by co-presenters from UC Cooperative Extension, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council and the Karuk Tribe. Caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, this disease has devastating effects on key cultural species. In late April, the series followed with lectures on the importance of co-management of tribal natural and cultural resources.

Sibyl Diver, currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University, presented on Co-management as a Catalyst: Pathways to Post-Colonial Forestry in the Klamath Basin. Co-management (collaborative management) frameworks are supposed to facilitate sustainable resource management and more equitable power-sharing between state agencies and Indigenous communities. However, there is significant debate about who benefits from co-management in practice. Diver’s work addresses two competing perspectives, which alternately portray co-management as an instrument for co-optation or for transformation. Through a case study of co-management negotiations involving the Karuk Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service in the Klamath Basin of Northern California, Diver discussed how Indigenous communities use co-management to build greater equity in environmental decision-making, despite its limitations. Diver developed the concept of pivot points to describe how Indigenous communities like the Karuk Tribe are simultaneously following existing state policies and subverting them to shift federal forest management. The pivot point method shows one way communities are addressing Indigenous self-determination goals and colonial legacies through environmental policy and management.

Dan Sarna explains the importance of scale. Bari Talley photo.

Dan Sarna, a post-doctoral researcher at University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, presented on Decentering Watersheds and Decolonizing Foodscapes: Eco-cultural Approaches to Scale for Klamath Environmental Governance. The watershed has long captured political and scientific imaginations and provided a primary social and spatial unit for environmental governance. However, collaborative governance at the watershed scale leaves out important ecological and social dynamics as well as tribal community perspectives on eco-cultural revitalization. Based on the history and cultural politics of collaborative watershed management in the Klamath River Basin, Sarna argues for better place-based and community-driven approaches to the question of scale (i.e. what biophysical or spatial areas, political boundaries and timeframes should be used for analysis and decision-making) in environmental governance.

Sarna compared the watershed with two other community-based spatial frameworks – firesheds and foodsheds – and considered their implications for water governance, ecosystem restoration, tribal sovereignty and collaborative natural resources management. He outlined an eco-cultural approach to scale, grounded in Indigenous knowledge and values, in which water is one of many cultural and natural resources that are interconnected and managed across multiple scales and temporal ranges.  This approach emphasizes democratizing scale, or opening up decisions about appropriate scales for environmental governance to inclusive debate, and decolonizing scale, or untangling histories and legacies of colonialism through developing new ways to make scales through community and place-based processes.

Sharing Collective Learning for New Collaborative Partnerships

Group of seven people stand in semicircle on dirt road, with green trees in background.

Don Hankins welcomes visitors to his tribe’s ancestral lands. Jennifer Sowerwine photo.

The University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Division is home to California’s statewide county agricultural extension system, known as University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), which includes staff at both UC campuses and County Extension offices. In a recent statewide survey of UCCE staff, over 100 people reported that there are Tribes in their communities that might benefit from Extension, but only a third of these currently receive Extension services. In response, Jennifer Sowerwine, Janice Alexander, and Deborah Giraud recently offered a 2-day workshop to UCCE staff interested in supporting local Tribes. The gathering, “Creating Successful Partnerships with Native American Tribes” brought Tribal representatives, staff and academics to share strategies to help break down some of the barriers to working collaboratively with Tribal communities.

coils of willow, redbud and other plant materials.

Traditional Indian basketry materials collected by Jennifer Bates, Miwok Tribal gatherer and basketweaver. Edith Friedman photo.

UCCE staff had requested information on Tribal history, government, and culture. At the workshop, the history of California Tribes was presented by Professor Beth Rose Middleton Manning and graduate student Vanessa Esquivido-Meza of UC Davis’s Native American Studies Department. Within the three major eras of pre-contact, Missions, and the American period, they described aspects of enslavement and forced labor, ecocide of plants and animals, land allotments, unratified treaties, Tribal Termination, and continuing Native resistance. In response to questions, they also covered what to call Tribal folks (use the Tribe’s name for themselves, and if in doubt, ask!); the “government-to-government” relationship between the Federal government and Tribes; Native Americans’ traditional view of ties to ancestral lands versus Western “property rights”; and some of the tremendous diversity among Native American communities.

Scott Williams, lawyer for the Yurok Tribe, spoke about Tribal governments and Federal Indian law. He emphasized the importance of understanding the history of slavery and genocide of Native Americans in order to work with Tribes today – that Tribal folks we meet today are survivors. Modern Tribes must negotiate both their unwritten laws and newer written constitutions, ordinances and Tribal court systems imposed by the Federal government. Williams discussed the three intertwined governments operating in the US – federal, state and tribal – and the struggle for federal recognition faced by 81 California tribes today.

UC Berkeley postdoc Dan Sarna discussed the concept of “salvage anthropology,” the approach many early 20th century academics took to researching cultures they had assumed were disappearing, which resulted in the removal of artifacts, cultural information and human remains from tribal territories. In contrast, Sarna and others’ collaborative work in the Klamath Basin, with the Karuk Tribe, has focused on the Tribe’s priorities for ecosystem restoration and cultural revitalization. Virginia Hedrick, Director of Policy and Planning for the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, described the experience of the one in seven Indians living in big California cities, and emphasized several elements in successful outreach to tribes: the importance of “doing the assessment,” that is, asking the community what it wants to see in new programming; the various points of contact for a Tribe (Tribal Council, Tribal departments such as Education, Tribal TANF); and the difference it makes to have culturally appropriate imagery, such as Native people and baskets, on materials designed for Tribes.

Theo Whitehurst, Valentin Lopez, and Arlene Dutschke describe contemporary Tribal concerns. Jennifer Sowerwine photo.

Arlene Dutschke of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, and Theo Whitehurst of the Potter Valley Tribe of Pomo Indians shared personal stories, and told the group about their diverse tribes and experience as land stewards with or without Federal recognition. Lopez described creating the Amah Mutsun Land Trust to steward ancestral lands as caretakers of Mother Earth; despite lacking formal title to their former land base, the Tribe now has land management agreements with numerous universities and agencies. All three panelists stressed the importance of taking time to build relationships and trust with Tribes for successful projects to happen.

Janice Alexander, Forest Health Program Coordinator for Marin County UCCE, presented her experience with the Western Region Tribal Integrated Pest Management Group and explained how listening was the key to understanding Tribal priorities, which often differed from non-Tribal goals. Deborah Giraud shared information about the Federally Recognized Tribal Extension program, which has about 45 partnerships in 19 states. Jennifer Sowerwine shared reflections on the USDA-AFRI-Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project, especially the importance of de-centering the University as the sole site of “expertise” and moving toward a more collaborative and participatory approach to research and extension. On this Federal grant, Tribal partners are significant sub-contractors, and are equal partners in developing and evaluating the research, education and outreach program.

five bullet points re partnerships with tribes

The group toured the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Center, and learned about the importance of valuing traditional ecological knowledge. Jennifer Bates, a renowned Miwok basket weaver, shared information about her craft, and basket weavers’ efforts to reduce pesticide spraying in areas where they collect materials. Participants also heard from Don Hankins, professor at Cal State Chico and cultural practitioner from the Mokelumne Tribe, about the cultural importance of fire ecology and understanding how the land and its inhabitants communicate in order to care for it well. We also learned about the funding possibilities for Tribal conservation projects through the NRCS from Pedro Martinez and Keir Johnson of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. Danny Manning of the Greenville Rancheria described the process of developing the Greenville Rancheria’s fire response team and implementing collaborative fire management projects on different land designations with Tribal elders and cultural monitors.

In small groups, participants listed elements of successful partnerships, and took some time to begin developing workplans and next steps around possible collaborative projects. We’ll keep you posted!

Want to learn more? Facilitators assembled this list of recommended reading.

Climate Change and Food Security

Snowy roadway with large fallen tree trunks blocking passage. Cloudy sky and dark green forest on both sides.

Salmon River Road in early January. Photo by Aja Conrad.

Weather has been much on our minds lately because there’s been so much of it. The Food Security Project includes research on the barriers to accessing healthy, culturally appropriate food. Our gardens need water and sunshine, and our cultural terrestrial foods require cool, slow burns, but what about when the weather itself is a barrier? This year, after yet another summer of drought and catastrophic wildfires, our changing climate brought the Klamath Basin record rains, river flooding and unusually heavy snow. Icy roads, downed trees and landslides made it challenging for people to travel to work, school and to the store for food.

View of yard with picnic table and baby swing, surrounded by trees, everything covered by about a foot of snow.

First March weekend in Orleans, CA. Photo by Kimathi Mucioki.

Climate change is also affecting Tribal access to cultural foods – and the local economy. The past two years saw salmon at such record lows that the Yurok Tribe did not serve salmon at the annual Klamath Salmon Festival, a first – not to mention closing its commercial fishery. Right now, a local mussel quarantine is in effect due to a biotoxin that accumulates in warmer ocean temperatures, and is not usually present so early in the year.

In times like these, a pantry full of canned fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats, or baking your own bread is more than just fun and satisfying – these skills can be survival skills.

Building Collaborative Networks: a visit with the Owens Valley and Mono Lake Paiute


Nine people stand in front of the University & Jepson Herbaria

Owens Valley visitors at the University & Jepson Herbaria

In late February, members of the Bishop, Big Pine, Lone Pine, and Mono Lake Paiute Tribes traveled from the Owens Valley area to visit UC Berkeley, and met with the UC Berkeley Food Security team. The now-arid Owens Valley lies north and east of Los Angeles. The Owens River and the Valley’s groundwater supply were decimated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to enable the expansion of Los Angeles beginning in the early 20th century.

Since 2011, Bishop Paiute tribal elder and water activist Harry Williams has collaborated with Berkeley professor Pat Steenland and the students in her “Researching Water in the West” American Cultures class. Fruits of this partnership have included survey documents (rediscovered by former undergraduate Jenna Cavelle in UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library archives) showing the location of ancient Paiute irrigation channels in the Owens Valley, transcription of handwritten records of Tribal cultural knowledge compiled in the 1930s, and the making of Paya: The Water Story of the Owens Valley Paiute, a moving documentary on the theft of Owens Valley water and the Tribes’ ongoing efforts to reclaim their water rights, directed by Cavelle. Paiute from the Owens Valley make annual visits to UC Berkeley. This year, Harry Williams was joined by Charlotte Lange, Chairperson of the Mono Lake Paiute Tribe; Kathy Bancroft, environmental monitor of Owens Dry Lake and Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer (THPO) for the Lone Pine Paiute Tribe; and Bill Helmer, retired THPO for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe.

The Owens Valley folks toured the University and Jepson Herbaria, and shared their efforts to reestablish Tribal sovereignty over their ancestral water and land. The Big Pine Paiute have a farmer’s market and demonstration garden as part of their Sustainable Food System Development Project, and the Bishop Paiute have an elders’ aquaponics greenhouse and community garden as part of their Food Sovereignty Program. They were interested to hear about the process and results of our collaborative Food Security research with the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Tribes.

“Sharing what we and our partners have learned in the Klamath is one important way to support Tribal food security everywhere,” said the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project’s Jennifer Sowerwine. “We look forward to more opportunities to exchange information with the Owens Valley and Mono Lake Paiute tribal communities.”

Landscape Revitalization

Reintroduce prescribed burns into the landscape to revive cultural resources including wildlife, food, medicine, basketry and other resources.

Bill Tripp, Deputy Director of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, discusses prescribed burning in Somes Bar, California. Derek Shoun of the USDA Forest Service talks about a shift in culture within the Forest Service around prescribed fire. Video by Stormy Staats, Klamath Salmon Media Collaborative.