Building Cultures of Preparedness With Tribes – An Overview

In 1999, Governor Gary Locke and Attorney General Christine Gregoire joined tribal chairs from throughout the state in signing an “Agreement to Institutionalize the Government-to-Government Relationship in Preparation for the New Millennium.” This agreement, between the State of Washington and the Tribal Nations, was an affirmation of the 1989 Centennial Accord. This event capped a three-day retreat titled “Building Bridges for the New Millennium.” During the Accord meeting, state and tribal officials framed the terms and principles of the state/tribal relationship needed to cement their government-to-government relationship. Among these principles were partnership and collaboration related to economic, social/cultural issues and natural resources, improved communication, cooperative education, and the development of a consensus-based, lasting, and respectful relationship.

There are a lot of obstacles in the way of progress in the state/tribal relationship. This agreement provided an action plan based on a foundation of historical understanding and common objectives. The discussion centered on these main areas: defining the state/tribal relationship, economic development, natural resource management, and social/cultural/education/law enforcement. A state/tribal workgroup was established and developed a process, structure, and protocols to implement the Centennial Accord and the New Millennium Agreement into a day-to-day working relationship.

Concerning economic development, one of many projects being undertaken according to the New Millennium Agreement is creating an updated report
detailing the economic contributions of the tribes to the state, emphasizing making the report action-oriented.

Craig Bill, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs (GOIA), provided highlights from the 2020 Centennial Accord Agency. This annual report is mandated under our government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes (RCW 43.376). The report summarized work that state agencies

completed to strengthen relations with tribal governments and enhance tribal communities. “While this report showcases valuable collaboration and commitment, we know the future holds opportunities for us to do even more. We are collectively experiencing unprecedented challenges during this pandemic. More than ever, that is why this tribal-state collaboration is pivotal to the health, safety, and protection of tribal communities – and the state – as a whole,” stated Craig.

There are many pathways through which Native students enter our state’s postsecondary education systems. For various reasons, Native student dropout rates vary by institution but are highest in two-year colleges. The research shows that students who first attend a community college are actually more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than those beginning their freshman year in a four-year institution. Washington colleges and universities are working hard to create effective programs. Best practices for Native student success in consulting and engaging tribal communities; providing connections to family and culture; supporting positive Indian identity; finding Indian role models or mentors in the student body and the faculty and staff; providing comprehensive, integrated student support services; using culturally relevant curriculum and teaching; and tailoring programs to fit student schedules and other specific needs.

Washington colleges and universities—both large and small, private and public—lead the nation in creating learning communities that purposefully restructure the curriculum to promote curricular coherence, course integration, active learning, and a sense of community among students and instructors (Smith, MacGregor, et al. 2004). In addition to developing interventions around key transition points for students, many institutions are also working to create a more culturally relevant curriculum and restructure “gatekeeper courses” with high withdrawal and failure rates. Tutoring, mentoring, and supplemental instruction are also proven means of enhancing student success. Another overriding feature of successful programs for Native students is attention to cultural traditions and tribal values.

Many institutions create a physical sense of place for Native students by providing gathering places, such as a multicultural service center lounge, or creating visible symbols on campus. Examples include the Welcome Figure at one entry to the Evergreen campus, the Longhouse at Peninsula College, and the diversity clock tower at Centralia College. These structures provide an important sense of hospitality and recognition for students who typically feel a sense of invisibility or isolation in many institutional settings. Many colleges and universities are trying to work within the spirit of the Centennial Accord of 1989, which provided a framework and protocols for the state and each of 26 federally recognized tribes to respect their sovereignty.

Linda Crerar, Director of the HSEM Center of Excellence, talked with long time Center Advisory Board Member Lynda Zambrano and Director of the Northwest Tribal Emergency Management Council (NWTEMC) to help the Center reach out to our state’s Tribal communities to help focus our efforts to help lead our CTC colleges and our programs with racial, social, and economic justice in the service to our diverse communities. Our Advisory Board and staff are committed to creating practical ways to enhance diversity and inclusion into our all-hazard career pathways equity and encourage our six (6) career pathway programs to expand their commitment to reach a more diverse student population, broaden the curriculum to include topics such as systemic racism and implicit bias within these professions, and hire faculty that help to enlarge perspectives of the programs.

We asked Lynda to talk with us about her work with the Tribal Emergency Management Council and the work that she and her Council Members have done working with both the Center and the Pierce College Homeland Security Emergency Management Degree Program in establishing the HSEM Tribal Certificate (put in the link to the Pierce HSEM Tribal Certificate) and how that curriculum and Certificate will be expanded and enhanced. We need to make sure our state’s Tribal Communities know there is a pathway to establish a career as an Emergency Management Profession in our state.

Lynda talked about tribal resources and education. She mentioned a new report, “Building Cultures of Preparedness with Tribes,” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Tribal Emergency Management and Tribal Curriculum webpage. Lynda, along with several other members of the Tribal Colleges and Universities Emergency Management Education Focus Group, provided their comments and suggestions in the report.

Lynda was the lead author of the report and shared her thoughts about the project. She believes that it was “important to honor the great works of the tribal people that have come before us, accurately reflect the history of the Tribes and Tribal Emergency Management Higher Education journey to this point.” Lynda is hoping that the report will give the reader a much deeper understanding of the challenges and obstacles and develop and deliver an EM curriculum into our state and country’s higher education system. The report shares perspectives about past, present, and potential future tribal emergency management education pathways for tribal colleges, universities, and the communities they serve.

One of the Center’s new Advisory Board members, Julie Jefferson, is a strong advocate for the need of tribal emergency management and preparedness curriculum. In her role as the Communications Director for the Lummi Business Council, Julie is in a crucial position to ensure that members of her community receive the public information updates needed to keep them safe from covid-19 exposure. Her responsibilities as Communications Director for the Lummi Indian Business Council means that she is responsible for communications sent to the tribal council, the general council (enrolled tribal membership), the community, and the press.

The Lummi Nation, as a self-governing tribe, is the third-largest tribe in Washington State with over 5,300 community members covering 13,500 acres of uplands and 10,500 acres of tidelands with a perimeter of close to 27 miles. Native American communities are some of the hardest-hit communities in terms of fatalities across the US so getting public health safety communications right with daily changing guidance from local, state, and federal health authorities is no small challenge.

”My current position is the Communications Director for the Lummi Tribe and in the position, I work with the emergency management team, along with the emergency preparedness team to prepare for winter storms. I also work with the teams to prepare for disasters. In that work, I have seen and not seen enough work being done. I feel that there is so much more to be done and I have had the opportunity in my position to bring in more emergency preparedness and go out to seek different training opportunities on my own. I look at my community, we are a nation within a nation, and being able to provide for our people. Our community is very reliant on our government to make sure that we are protected,” said Julie.

She also added, “The thought of preparedness and the thought of management needs to be at the forefront to show its importance and I think being able to bring that to the community and speak to them in a way that allows one to come in to bring that information. It is definitely a lot about relationships. The biggest piece is the relationships with the community but another big piece, especially in our area, is the local, state, and federal partners. Those relationships are still being built here in Lummi. There has been growth over the last several years, but there is a lot more to go when it comes to making sure that in an event of an emergency, that we have those working relationships. We want them to know whom they are talking to and that they know us to help better understand the needs of the community.”

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ABOUT OUR CENTER’S EFFORTS:Over 12 years ago, the Center working with Pierce College and its Advisory Board established the first fully online Homeland Security Emergency Management Associates and Certificate Program in WA State. When the community colleges statewide online technology allowed, the Center helped Pierce College develop a new approach for program delivery, which allowed colleges to sign Collaboration Agreements that allowed them to deliver the Pierce College HSEM AA Degree Program Community and Technical College in the state. The Seven (7) colleges: Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Olympic College in Bremerton, Highline College and Cascadia College in King County, Edmonds College in Snohomish County, Skagit Valley College which provided access for Skagit, Island, and Whatcom Counties and Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake which provides local access in Central WA.

In 2014, to meet the increasing demand by employers for qualified professions in this field, the Center, Pierce College, and their respective Advisory Boards begin discussions about establishing a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) online degree program. In 2015, the State Board for Community Colleges approved the BAS Degree. Pierce College began offering the Program in the fall of 2016.

In 2019, the HSEM Degree program added its Tribal Certificate thanks to Lynda and many others’ work. Lynda stated that the Tribal Certificate helps prepare graduates with preparedness, management, and leadership competencies. Tribal Certificate graduates are current and will be hired by Tribal governments and other HSEM public and private industry partners such as utilities/energy, construction management, supply chain/trade, maritime, and IT/Cyber Security.

Lynda believes that Tribal Communities in Washington State have an amazing opportunity to access a Tribal statewide certificate through their local community and technical college system. The Center of Excellence for HSEM and our Tribal can help people learn more about training and Certification here in Washington State.