You are here

A New Perspective

Corny as it may sound, time flies when you are having fun. Yes Paul and Jim, I’m having a blast! Listening to great music in a laboratory, working in a 10 degree Celsius room, what else could I ask for? I’m not joking here. Interestingly though, the highlight from last week occurred outside of the lab. We were privileged to talk/eat lunch with a member of a North West Native American Tribe. During our brown bag discussion we focused on our relationship, as future scientists and productive members of society, with the Native American Tribes in our region. It was great. So great in fact that I felt the need to catch my grandparents up on what I had learned as well as a handful of my friends from Willamette!

It was obvious that I needed a new perspective on what a considerate, well educated, socially just person is. We talked about things I rarely or had ever thought about in depth. Something that hit home was a very general phrase I know I have spoken many times before in school “in X Treaty Y Tribe was given Z rights.” It had never occurred to me the inaccuracy of this statement. Native Americans have reserved these rights, not been given them. I had never given it much thought and in doing so had not realized the importance of these tribal communities. These tribes not only have the right to be treated fairly but they are an integral part of protecting our environment. Not only do they many times look at the environment differently and provide a new approach but they also can supply very valuable data. In the North West for example tribes who historically live off of salmon know years of information on salmon, water quality, and the surrounding environment. It seems that an imperative part of research and environmental protection comes from the cooperation and recognition of everyone.

In New Zealand the Ministry for the Environment not only consults their native tribes, the Maori, before implementing research on the environment, but the Maori must sign off first. Although this is not ideal (ideally the Maori would work in parallel with the Ministry and in research) it is a crucial step, which is not always taken in the United States.

It is our responsibility then to the future of research and environmental protection to consult and work with each other and to listen to different perspectives.