The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) has adopted a mission based on First Foods ritualistically served at tribal meals (Figure 1). This framework for natural resource management seeks to reflect the unique tribal values associated with natural resources and to emphasize ecological processes and services that are undervalued by westernized Euro-American natural resource strategies. The First Foods framework prioritizes efforts to renaturalize processes that sustain First Foods and provides a direct and culturally appropriate means for monitoring and reporting restoration progress to the tribal community.
Sound river management and restoration are predicated upon the need to develop a systemic and holistic vision of a functional river (Independent Scientific Group 1996; Stanford et al. 1996; Ward et al. 2001; Jungwirth et al. 2002; Nilsson et al. 2007). Such a vision provides a framework for planning management or restoration efforts and an initial benchmark for assessing management success or failure. Similarly, a river vision provides the context necessary for understanding the role of any specific management decision or action in the context of other decisions or actions.
Our vision is as follows: The Umatilla basin includes a healthy river capable of providing First Foods that sustain the continuity of the Tribe’s culture. This vision requires a river that is dynamic, and shaped not only by physical and biological processes, but the interactions and interconnections between those processes.
In this report, we outline a vision for desired ecological characteristics of the Umatilla River’s water quality and water resource management, which will facilitate the sustained production of First Foods within the Umatilla Basin. These characteristics are founded on five fundamental “touchstones,” including; 1) hydrology, 2) geomorphology, 3) connectivity, 4) native riparian vegetation, and 5) native aquatic biota.
The First Foods management framework adopts a broad definition of “water quality,” incorporating the physical, chemical, biological, and ecological targets to assess the quality of water in the Umatilla River. Essentially, according to this framework, the ecological function and health of the Umatilla River become a holistic measure of water quality, and provide a pathway toward the restoration and maintenance of First Foods production.