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  • Writer's pictureRose High Bear

TEK Workforce Development Project

Trish Shares Impacts and Outcomes


The Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Development Internship we provided to Native American interns last fall incorporated career pathway planning for horticulture and agriculture careers for Native Americans. The first of four film clips of our final celebration that we held on December at Chemeketa Community College featuring their final presentations will be shared in our e-newsletter over the next several months.

Our first-year interns had the opportunity to create lasting relationships with each other and with peers from local universities who served as volunteers who helped develop our 350’ pollinator hedgerow and complete work in the blue elderberry patch at our two-acre farm. While working together, they learned from one other’s experiences. Our initiative will serve as a successful model and includes plans for peer learning exchanges between students from diverse cultures here in the mid-Willamette Valley. Our partnership with Chemeketa Community College is funded by the USDA through 2026.

Our TEK Educator, Trish Haugen (Blackfoot, Seneca, Sami) shared her findings after helping to launch The Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Readiness Project in the fall of 2021. She reported:

Our holistic, culturally tailored curriculum is an ambitious and nuanced approach designed to engage, mentor, and reconnect Indigenous folks to fulfilling and critically important conservation work and help mitigate our emerging climate crisis. Harnessing and translating the “calling” into an attainable and sustainable career pathway is our goal. Over the course of 10 weeks, we used the traditional medicine wheel as our keystone ethos. Balancing spiritual, mental, physical and, emotional aspects of being is a primary theme woven into our goals and objectives. Through traditional, digital (multi-media), experiential, as well as, social and emotional learning methods, we accomplished the following:

4 Interns Navigated a COVID free 10-week in-person internship with zero safety incidents.

  • The “in the field” experiential training per intern totaled 40 hours

  • They planted over 440 native plant species

  • They identified and manually removed 8 species of “invasives” (without spraying)

  • They designed and planted a 350’ pollinator hedgerow, including 19 native species)

  • Our ongoing site assessments noted the following wildlife presence: 3 Native bee species, 2 snakes, 5 deer citings, multiple Bald Eagles and other birds, mole community evidence, moths and butterflies, worms, and multiple mushroom species

The interns met in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays with mornings were spent in the classroom and afternoons in the field. TEK class started our day followed by Workforce Readiness, Native Leadership, Cohort Development/mentorship, Health and Wellness Resilience. Over the course of the internship, the interns developed an “emerging researchers” presentation (the film clips of their final presentations will be shared this winter on our website and our monthly e-newsletter). The Introduction to Horticulture and the Irrigation classes at Chemeketa Community College are important components of this project and an amazing opportunity for the students.

Through data collection, in the form of weekly surveys and feedback forms, we identified patterns that gave us the following insights:

  • 80% of the interns are committed to working in environmental-based careers

  • 99% report the ability to identify more plant species than before the internship

  • 70% increase in hope with regard to the climate crisis; 90% increased awareness about climate mitigation practices; and 100% committed to addressing climate change in “any way they can”

  • 95% reported a commitment to continue learning and practicing Traditional Ecological Knowledge, while 100% committed to learning more about their specific tribes, with 75% reported feeling more connected and supported, and 90% feeling more connected to their culture post-internship

  • 89% identified assertive communication techniques as a “very important” skill set to have.

  • 100% reported that “conflict resolution” techniques are “critical”

  • 75% are open to mentoring others

  • 89% reported a feeling of “clarity” after refining their career goals

Trish concludes: “It was amazing to witness this committed cohort of Indigenous young adults as they begin their Traditional Ecological Knowledge quest to connect and restore balance to our environment through a fulfilling conservation career."

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