The Indian Country Today
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Environmental Protection

Nez Perce historian Otis Half Moon explains that just before signing the 1855 treaty with the United States, one tribal elder asked, “Does the earth know what is happening to her? Does the earth know that these lines are being drawn across it? Who is going to speak for the earth?”

Eight years after the 1855 treaty was ratified the Nez Perces agreed to reduce the size of their reservation, but they never abandoned their sense of responsibility for their original homeland. Today, the tribe’s Department of Natural Resources develops and manages aggressive environmental protection programs to carry out that responsibility, including programs for wolf recovery, wildlife protection, sustainable agricultural practices, and forest management.

To move ahead with these environmental projects, the tribe has negotiated Memorandums of Understanding [MOUs] with various government agencies. The MOUs outline the tribe's commitment to managing these projects in accordance with federal environmental guidelines. These MOUs apply to the entire 1855 treaty area. It is in this way that the modern Nez Perce “speak for the earth.“