SACRED HARVEST: Preserving 5,000 Years of Yakama Tradition in the Sawtooth Huckleberry Fields

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 12 April, 2012 - 21:10 to 21:30
BROWN, Christine - IIDP Washington State University

The longevity of the Sawtooth Huckleberry Fields in Gifford Pinchot National Park dates back 7,000 years, and Yakama oral history tells us that the huckleberry is sacred in their culture—equivalent to Christian sacraments. While the landmark 1905 Winans ruling is the cornerstone for U.S. Indian rights to gather forest products on public lands, Yakamas also retain their 1932 Handshake Agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. Eventually documented in writing, this unprecedented event set aside 3,000 acres of the Sawtooth Huckleberry Fields for exclusive Native use. However, abuse by commercial pickers and forest encroachment from a lack of burning have prompted a devastating 90% decline in berry acreage from 15,000 acres in 1800 to a mere 1500 acres in 2011. This paper discusses returning full stewardship of the berry fields to the Yakamas and then demonstrates how and why this action is both an environmentally sound and morally just decision.