New Doors


The Patel College of Global Sustainability encourages its graduate students to conduct their field internships in other countries, although if an interesting opportunity arises domestically we are also supported to work in the U.S.. So for the second part of summer, I chose a hybrid: my goal was to intern in or for Indian Country which is comprised of sovereign nations nested within this larger nation. I was lucky to spend a month at Ecotrust, an organization located in Portland, Oregon, which collaborates with tribes of the Pacific Northwest on many initiatives.

The project I helped with was the Native American Economic Sovereignty Initiative. Ecotrust and its partner, The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, are doing a one-year feasibility study for developing a fellowship program which trains and equips a cohort of emerging Native leaders with the tools, expertise and relationships needed to respond to the social demands of their communities. My month-long assignment was two-fold: to research similar existing fellowship opportunities and models and make recommendations for our own program, and to enter the data gathered from in-depth surveys completed by the tribes of the region.

I enjoyed this quiet time at the desk thoroughly, which surprised me, because I’ve always been a field worker- the more remote and rugged, the better. I think the positive experience can be attributed to the interesting content, but also  to my awesome supervisors and to the organizational culture as a whole. At Ecotrust, regardless of how administrative or clerical a task might seem, one comes away feeling like even a nearly ephemeral contribution such as mine (four weeks fly by) is a meaningful thread in the larger tapestry of the universe. Everyone gets the big picture. That being said, this type of computer work doesn’t make for a very interesting picture, so below are related events I was blessed to participate in.

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From conference calls to Energy conferences, I was generously invited to any event put on by or related to the region’s tribes. This workshop, “Partnering with Native Nations”, was a treat.

The highlight of the summer (and maybe of my life) was to witness the repatriation of Indian land. See, Ecotrust is in the business of restructuring the economy to serve the interests of the Earth (and its people), so it bought a very special 3,000-acre piece of land from a third party a long time ago and recently sold it back to its original owner/ steward: the Coquille Tribe. This entire process, which took many years, just happened to culminate in the weeks I was there (!!!!!!) and so pretty much the entire organization went down to the Sek-Wet-Se for a two-day celebration including a forest tour, blessing, and potlatch dinner. I am still a bit at a loss for words to describe how special the event was. I am so grateful to both Ecotrust and the Coquille Tribe for opening their doors and hearts to an intern from another world. I learned many things, especially that conservation is about managing relationships, with nature and each other, more so than resources.

Left: early morning walk to Dry Creek, which is culturally important for the tribe and ecologically critical for the the Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead salmon that spawn here; with Noah, Ecotrust's repping economist. Right: rough-skin newt (toxic but beatiful and common in this pristine creek)

Left: early morning walk to Dry Creek, which is culturally important for the tribe and ecologically critical for the the Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead salmon that spawn here; with Noah, Ecotrust’s repping economist. Right: rough-skin newt (toxic but beautiful and common in this pristine creek)

Another part of the forest, another gorgeous salmon-nurturing creek

Another part of the forest, another gorgeous salmon-nurturing creek. We learned that gravel is an indicator of and an essential element in the health of these streams. All those little rocks and pebbles along the sides of the body of water are where the fish make their spawning nest, called a “redd”.

From left: George Smith, Coquille Tribe Executive Director; me; Don Ivy, Tribal Chief; Spencer Beebe, founder of Ecotrust.

From left: George Smith, Coquille Tribe Executive Director; me; Don Ivy, Tribal Chief; Spencer Beebe, founder of Ecotrust.

... and salmon by the fire, one of the many delicious traditional foods we were served.

… and salmon by the fire, one of the many delicious traditional foods we were served.

The beautiful cedar longhouse where we had dinner and where Ecotrust and the Coquille Tribe exchanged gifts, honored each other, and affirm a lifelong friendship.

The beautiful cedar longhouse in the Reservation where we had dinner and where Ecotrust and the Coquille Tribe exchanged gifts, honored each other, and affirmed a lifelong friendship.

3 comments

  1. erickalm · September 3, 2015

    What an incredible experience! And it looks so beautiful there. I’m sure you learned so much and fit in just fine. And all of these experiences will help you in your bright future. It sounds like you set up a good internship(s) for yourself and really took advantage of what they had to offer you. I thin these experiences will continue to teach us long after the internship is over. I can’t wait to catch up and hear all about your time in Colombia and Oregon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joseph W. Dorsey · September 29, 2015

    Karina, You are having a powerful and life changing experience. The breadth of your capstone internship is amazing. From Colombia to Oregon in one summer, you are deep into native heritages few of us ever know. And, your pictures are wonderful. You are making some tremendous contributions to the cultures you visit. You have much to be proud of.

    Dr. Dorsey

    Like

    • Kari Becerra · September 30, 2015

      Thank you so much for all your support Dr. Dorsey- couldn’t have done it without you and the College’s backing.

      Like

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