Written by Ann Marie Murphy —
Two days on the road in Central Oregon with more than 50 new OSU faculty confined to a bus can be a daunting prospect. But the team that planned the tour, led by Jeff Sherman, pulled it off with aplomb.
As part of the Engagement Academy of University Outreach and Engagement, a special initiative of the division, the fourth Roads Scholar cohort hit the road before 8 a.m. on September 12, 2016. Faculty new to OSU or new to engagement work from across the university were exposed to the outreach and engagement philosophy of OSU and to the work of Extension in Central Oregon and the Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center (COARC).
At this writing, I am 11-months new to outreach and engagement work and have spent much of that time attempting to internalize and deeply understand what it means to engage communities. As the communication and marketing manager for the Division of University Outreach and Engagement, I spend most of my time trying to tell the story of engagement work, so I was eager listen and learn.
The tour reinforced the fact that outreach and engagement is not a unilateral act. The “expert model” isn’t the way to engage. Rather, the listening and learning part, essential to building trust and relationships, is just as important as the knowledge part of the equation.
At COARC, in addition to learning that the seeds that grow virtually every carrot we eat likely come from Oregon, we heard how central Oregon farmers want better ways to minimize water usage – irrigation changed what can be grown in the region, but with only 11 inches of rain a year, water resources are scarce. COARC is there to test new crops and production methods protecting the farmers and ranchers from risking their incomes and field productivity. That’s a big value to the area; so big, the farmers and ranchers help fund the work of the center.
Heading north to the Warms Springs Indian Reservation, we learned a few – many? – cultural lessons. At the Museum of Warm Springs, we heard from tribal members about the state of education of the tribe’s children, reservation and ceded lands for hunting and gathering of traditional foods, and first nation traditional foods, their importance to ceremonial occasions and threats to availability and access. We even were able to taste the foods (dried bitterroot is surprisingly tasty!). Schooling for K-8 is available on reservation; high school students must travel great distances to attend classes (sadly, graduation rates are below 30 percent). Credit for learning tribal language isn’t available because the Indian elders teaching the courses don’t have the required teaching certification.
In 1855, Joel Palmer, superintendent for the Oregon Territory, received his orders to clear the Indians from the land they had lived on for more than 10,000 years. He did so by negotiating a series of Indian treaties including the one establishing the Warm Springs Reservation. Under the treaty, the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes relinquished approximately ten million acres of land, but reserved the Warm Springs Reservation for their exclusive use. The tribes also kept their rights to harvest fish, game and other foods off the reservation in their usual and accustomed places. Later the Paiutes joined the confederation. Not surprisingly, the way of life of the tribes changed dramatically, and holding onto spiritual and cultural traditions continues to be hard fought. (Source: The Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs)
Hearing the words “we are a conquered people” was sobering. The immediate impulse is to swoop in with solutions, but that isn’t the way of engagement. Extension has worked with the community for years, building the trust necessary to help with nutrition and food safety, rebuild gardening skills for access to fresh fruits and vegetables, manage tribal forests, encourage commercial enterprises, and more.
After a night of luxuriating in a salmon feast, watching young tribal dancers and listening to cultural myths around the wood-burning fire – coyote finds himself in many ticky situations – at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort, we headed to Bend for the opening of the OSU – Cascade Campus.
The final leg of the journey, not counting the beautiful ride back to campus later in the day, included learning about the Upper Deschutes River Coalition (navigating the 4-H high ropes course, or learning about food preservation, gardening and greenhouse, or Juntos were other options). The mission of the coalition is to protect upper Deschutes River communities by restoring and sustaining healthy fire-resistant forests, pure and abundant river flows and wildlife habitat.
OSU Extension, one of many coalition stakeholders, provides access to OSU research, which helps coalition members make decisions about forest management practices, and educates the community about what users are seeing in their managed forest forays. The outreach takes the form of traditional brochures and less traditional beer labels and coasters. Nicole Strong, Extension forester, professor of practice and coalition member, invited other coalition members to share with the Roads Scholars their roles and the importance of the group’s work. It was a proud moment to learn about the crucial and creative role Nicole and OSU play in the coalition.
Last year’s Roads Scholar cohort went to the coast. Where will next year’s tour participants head? Stay tuned…and take advantage of the opportunity!
PS: One of the best parts about being a Roads Scholar this year was the impromptu discussions that took place on the bus. It’s not often one is surround by such interesting people from so many different disciplines, so it was a great pleasure to learn about the outreach and engagement work being done by those on the tour. Another best part was the traditional fry bread and huckleberry jam! Of course the succulent salmon – crusty bits on the outside and buttery on the inside – was wonderful, too.