Submitted by: Heather Emmons, NRCS Nevada State Public Affairs Officer and American Indian/Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program Manager
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) introduces The Dance of the Sage Grouse: Bridging Culture and Conservation – a unique effort highlighting Native Americans’ conservation efforts with NRCS.
Artwork can often move us—the colors, textures, meanings and messages can leave a lasting impression and even teach us a lesson. They can be a catalyst for action, too. Such is the case with Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California member and artist Louinda Garity, who inspired and enlightened us when she entered her artwork into our national Native American Heritage Month poster contest in 2018. Her artwork reminds us that despite our different backgrounds and cultures, we are on common ground when it comes to valuing sage grouse and their habitat in the sagebrush sea.
The 2018 Farm Bill includes provisions for historically underserved producers that address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged, beginning, limited resource, and veteran farmers and ranchers—including American Indians. It is at this crossroad where we have met tribal producers who share our common conservation values. We have worked together to achieve great success in sage grouse territory, and we look forward to working with more tribal members to preserve and protect wildlife habitat.
To help achieve this, NRCS introduces a new poster-sized brochure to showcase, and thereby hopefully increase, Native American participation in Farm Bill programs. The brochure provides examples of successful NRCS projects on tribal lands around the West that are also in sage grouse territory in hopes of encouraging other tribes to participate in similar cooperative efforts with NRCS.
Titled The Dance of the Sage Grouse: Bridging Culture and Conservation, the brightly colored brochure features Garity’s artwork on one side, with Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) stories and NRCS/Native American success stories on the other side.
While NRCS emphasizes preserving and protecting sage grouse habitat and populations on working lands, the same can be said of generations of Native Americans, as exhibited through their tribal dances done in reverence and respect to these iconic birds.
The title of Garity’s artwork is “The Moon When the Hu’ze’ha nu’ga.” In the Northern Paiute language, this translates to: “The Month When the Sage Hen Dance.” Her artwork not only shares TEK as it relates to tribal stories and knowledge, but also speaks to the cultural significance of sage grouse and their ecosystem. This TEK coincides with NRCS’ efforts to work with farmers and ranchers to preserve sage grouse habitat.
“This artwork depicts the sage grouse dancing in early spring with the Stillwater Mountain Range in the background. I depicted a sea of sagebrush, the habitat of the sage grouse with the ghosts of tribal traditional dancers among them,” said Garity. “For Nevada tribes, they provided tasty food and feathers for regalia and decoration. The sagebrush itself is used for many different things, including shelter, medicine, tea and spiritual cleansing. Nevada Natives are very concerned with the preservation and conservation of land and wildlife habitats, including the pine nut tree groves and water resources.”
The brochure also shares NRCS resources and how to get started working with us. We hope the public finds this product as inspiring and informational as we do, and it is used to start conversations about exploring conservation efforts or partnerships. If you’re interested in obtaining copies of the brochure, there are a few ways to do it:
- you can check with your local USDA Service center
- order them at our distribution center at: nrcspad.sc.egov.usda.gov/DistributionCenter/ (search keyword “sage grouse”)
- download the brochure from the NRCS website by searching “NRCS greater sage grouse” and once on that page, scroll down to the “Working Lands for Wildlife” section.
To read more about the brochure, there’s an interactive storymap about the brochure: https://arcg.is/0fziOa0 Want to get started working with USDA? The department offers a variety of farm loan, risk management, disaster assistance, and conservation programs to support farmers, ranchers and tribes. Learn more about USDA opportunities at farmers.gov.