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Jan 31 2021

Wilderness Stories: Defending Native Land from Exploitation

Conservationist and educator Germaine White on defending Native land from degradation and the importance of youth leadership

WildCast Audio Stories

White believes, and has spent her career proving, that we must work across political, social, and cultural boundaries to address issues impacting our public lands and wild places. 

Having spent 35 years working for the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), the National Park Service, and Salish Kootenai College, she has firsthand experience of how difficult resource management decisions can be when cultural and conservation values collide with economic interests. She recently retired from her position as information and education specialist for the CSKT’s Natural Resources Department, in which she developed innovative initiatives to promote public engagement and environmental education.

White graciously sat down with Shining Mountains Chapter to share a story from western Montana’s Camas Prairie. She spoke about defending tribal land against serious spills from a Yellowstone Pipe Line Company petroleum pipeline that crossed the Flathead Indian Reservation. Notably, a 10,000-gallon petroleum leak at Camas Creek in 1993 contaminated traditional crops and led the tribe to question whether they should renew YPL’s permit to transport gasoline through tribal land (the latest of several major spills since the pipeline started moving fuel in 1954).

White’s story highlights how dedicated communities can protect their natural resources and cultural values against exploitation.

“Children now are like buffalo born behind a fence … our elders knew the curves of the trail as intimately as they knew the lines and curves of their mother’s faces, and our children now are not familiar with the wilderness.” – Germaine White

An avid and longtime Wilderness Walks leader, White also offers words of wisdom regarding the role of wilderness in connecting people – especially younger generations – to the natural world and encourages us all to bring our best energy to conservation efforts so that we can preserve our cherished wild places for future generations.

WildCast, Shining Mountains Chapter’s storytelling series, is produced and created by Amy Katz and Clare Ols, members of the chapter’s events committee. Music included in the series is performed by Marc Katz. If you have a story you’d like to share with WildCast, you can contact Amy and Clare at shiningmountainschapterevents@gmail.com.