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U.S. Geological Survey Activities Related to American Indians and Alaska Natives
Fiscal Year 2003

Contents | Tribes | Organizations | States | Intro | Highlights | Education | Resource and Environmental | Technical | General Coordination and Policy | Future | Contact Us


Information is a resource for Native American governments, communities, organizations, and people. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides technical expertise, reports, and other impartial information sources that benefit Native Americans interested in subsistence issues, water, resources and land use, and the health of many parts of the environment. Native decisions based in USGS data and analyses support the goals of Native self-sufficiency, economic development, and conservation.

The USGS works in cooperation with American Indian and Alaska Native governments, conducting research on: water energy and mineral resources; animals and plants of environmental, economic, or subsistence importance; and natural hazards. Digital data on cartography, energy and mineral resources, streamflow, biota, and other topics are available to American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and institutions. The USGS also recognizes the need to learn from and share knowledge with Native peoples. This report describes most of the activities that the USGS conducted with American Indian and Alaska Native governments, educational institutions, and individuals during Federal fiscal year (Fiscal Year) 2003. Some of these USGS activities were conducted cooperatively with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or other Federal entities. Others were collaborations with Tribes, Tribal organizations, and professional societies.

Growing numbers of Tribal governments, educational institutions, and other Tribal organizations are using geographic information systems and other digital technologies that can use USGS data for specific Native purposes. Using these technologies provides Tribal governments with additional means of managing lands and resources for the benefit of current and future generations. The USGS recognizes the need to make its information available to Tribal governments and to work with those governments and other institutions to improve data management capabilities.

A goal of the USGS is to respond to these needs by increasing the transfer of scientific information to American Indian and Alaska Native governments and by training employees of those governments to conduct scientific studies and improve scientific data management. Other USGS goals are to encourage American Indians and Alaska Natives to pursue careers in science and to create internships and other means of providing jobs for American Indian and Alaska Native students. The USGS is striving to increase the job opportunities for Native American students by identifying, improving, and disseminating information about available hiring mechanisms and by alerting USGS managers to the pool of qualified Native students.

The USGS is the Federal science bureau within the Department of the Interior (DOI). The USGS is non-regulatory and is not a significant manager of Federal or Trust lands or assets. However, as described in this report, there are many USGS activities that involve American Indians, Alaska Natives, and their lands. A USGS website, dedicated to making USGS more accessible to American Indians, Alaska Natives, their governments, and institutions, is available at This website includes information on how to contact USGS Native American Tribal Liaisons, training opportunities, and links to other information resources. This report and previous editions are also available through the website.

The USGS realizes that traditional Native knowledge and cultural traditions of living in harmony with nature result in unique Native perspectives that enrich USGS studies. USGS seeks to increase the sensitivity and openness of our scientists to the wealth of Native knowledge, expanding the information on which our research is based.

One type of USGS activity described in this report occurs in the course of formal studies, conducted through existing USGS programs, that involves collection of specific types of data as well as investigative and research projects. These projects typically last 2 or 3 years, although a few are parts of longer-term activities. Some projects are funded through cooperative agreements, from monies provided to the USGS by individual Tribal governments or by the BIA. The USGS provides matching funds for cooperative projects. These formal projects may also receive funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Indian Health Service (part of the Department of Health and Human Services), or other Federal agencies. The USGS routinely works with its sister bureaus in the Department of the Interior to provide the scientific information and expertise needed to meet the Department's science priorities.

The second type of USGS activity is less formal and is designed and conducted by USGS employees typically as collateral tasks that result from one or more USGS employee identifying and responding to an observed need. These endeavors are prompted by employee interests and frequently involve educational activities. The education is often a reciprocal learning and teaching experience for both USGS employees and Native participants. Through these activities, USGS employees help fulfill a mission of the USGS—to prove scientific relevance—while helping their fellow citizens. Increasingly, some of the educational activities are becoming parts of formal USGS projects.

USGS employees have also taken the initiative in assisting American Indians and Alaska Natives through participation in several organizations that were created to promote awareness of science career opportunities among Native peoples and to help build support and communication networks. One such group is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). This group sponsors an annual national meeting in which USGS employees participate. USGS employees join this organization on a voluntary basis, bringing the benefits of this expanded network to the USGS, as many employees do with other professional organizations.

Each major organizational unit of the USGS has identified an American Indian/Alaska Native liaison. The USGS has a regional organizational structure, with Western, Central, and Eastern Regions. The regions work in concert with specific scientific disciplines to conduct the scientific mission of the USGS. The regional structure is intended to bring us closer to our customers; we hope that Native Americans and Alaska Natives will use the contacts listed at the end of this report.

How to use this report: In the following pages, diverse USGS activities related to American Indians and Alaska Natives are grouped into several categories: Highlights of Fiscal Year 2003, Educational Activities, Resource Activities, Technical Assistance, General Coordination, and Future Opportunities. If you find an interesting activity that you think might be appropriate to undertake in your area, contact the person(s) listed to learn how the activity was carried out. Ask about other USGS employees who could assist you in developing a similar activity in your area. If in doubt as to how to proceed, contact the USGS employees listed on the inside of the back cover. Within the USGS, this report will help staff develop outreach, educational, and program documents for future use. It is hoped that USGS employees, American Indians, and Alaska Natives will adapt these activities in new settings and will use the USGS contacts to expand the relevance of the USGS to more Americans.

This document was prepared compiled by Susan Marcus, USGS American Indian/Alaska Native Liaison, in cooperation with the Regional and Discipline Liaisons:

Thanks to Sharon Powers for creating the graphic layout of the report, Regina One Star for the cover art, John Evans for designing the cover, and Patricia Packard for the center map.

USGS has a website dedicated to Native American contacts, activities, and information. Please visit this site at:

A general point of contact is Susan Marcus, Director's Office, 703-648-4437;

John Wesley Powell became the second Director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1881, after surveying and mapping parts of the canyonlands and Rocky Mountains of the southwest. Powell, like the Native Americans he met, viewed people and their environment as intrinsically interconnected-precursors to USGS multidisciplinary studies of today.

Major John Wesley Powell in Native American dress with Tau-ruv, a member of the Paiute Indian Tribe. Major John Wesley Powell in Native American dress with Tau-ruv, a member of the Paiute Indian Tribe. In Uintah Valley on the eastern slope of the Wasatch Mountains, now part of the State of Utah. Photograph by J.K. Hillers sometime in the 1870's. Smithsonian Institution photograph courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.
Major John Wesley Powell talking with a member of the Paiute Tribe in Uintah Valley on the eastern slope of the Wasatch Mountains, now part of the State of Utah. Major John Wesley Powell talking with a member of the Paiute Tribe in Uintah Valley on the eastern slope of the Wasatch Mountains, now part of the State of Utah. Photograph by J.K. Hillers sometime in the 1870’s. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.
U.S. Geological Survey Director Chip Groat (second from left) with Tribal College leaders and USGS employees at the USGS EROS Data Center.
U.S. Geological Survey Director Chip Groat (second from left) with Tribal College leaders and USGS employees at the USGS EROS Data Center. USGS is working with Tribal Colleges and Universities to provide technology that will help train Native students for careers that will benefit themselves, their Tribes, and the Nation. Native people enrich the USGS understanding of natural sciences. The path of communication and cooperation, started by John Wesley Powell, will continue into the future. Photograph courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey EROS Data Center.

The contacts provided in the report were accurate at the time of publication. Please refer to the USGS Employee Directory or the Office of Tribal Relations contact page if you require information about a specific activity.

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