Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and senior EPA officials visited Northwest Indian College’s Lummi and Swinomish campuses on April 14-15, 2015. The visit centered around college efforts to restore food sovereignty to tribal nations and to study the impacts of global climate change on traditional foods. The Administrator viewed current and past ecoAmbassador projects that are funded by the EPA in coordination with American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). The current ecoAmbassador project, Foodscaping a Tribal College, coordinated through NWIC’s Center for Indigenous Service Learning, focuses on research and restoration of nut and berry species native to Coast Salish territory on a college site and provides a model for home garden restoration. Through participation in this project, NWIC Environmental Science student interns – Paul Cline, Carol Wilson, and Na’ta’ne Miles, in collaboration with science faculty, Brian Compton and Nathanael Davis, and Service Learning Director, Ane Berrett – provide educational, hands-on learning for high school and college students and provide Northwest Indian College and the Lummi community with a model of food sovereignty. Previous ecoAmbassador projects, coordinated through NWIC’s Salish Sea Research Center, include native plant education and monitoring biotoxins (red tides) in local shellfish beds.
During McCarthy’s visit, she also met with the tribal chairmen of both Lummi and Swinomish Nations, Chairman Timothy Ballew, II and Chairman Brian Cladoosby (who also serves as National Congress of American Indians President) to discuss important environmental and social issues facing tribal nations.
The visit followed a recent message from President Obama to encourage all of his senior governmental officials to visit tribal nations, and the recent Announcement of Generation Indigenous (Gen I), a Native youth initiative focused on removing the barriers between Native American students and their success.