Jonathan Thompson: Tribal First Foods and the Umatilla River Vision

Picture of a backhoe and man cutting down tree in woods

International Studies in Planning Spring 2013

Jonathan Thompson (M.R.P. ’05) works for the Department of Natural Resources of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as the assistant fish habitat project leader for the Walla Walla Basin. He is a Walla Walla County planning commissioner and is on the board of directors of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, a nonprofit providing HIV and Hepatitis C outreach, case management, and syringe exchange. Before coming to study at Cornell he worked in the Caribbean, first as a Peace Corps water and sanitation volunteer, and later as a logistical coordinator for a post-hurricane housing rebuilding projects.

Across the Pacific Northwest, enforcement of both tribal treaty rights and the Endangered Species Act have directed significant resources towards salmon recovery, including riparian and instream habitat planning and restoration. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation's Umatilla River Vision is a planning document that draws on the tribal First Foods — the order that the tribal foundational foods appear in the creation story and are presented during traditional feasts — to present a holistic view of the riverine landscape. Tribal salmon restoration work is embedded within the framework of the River Vision as well as within complex geographical and jurisdictional contexts. Thompson’s work as a planner and implementer requires working simultaneously at multiple scales and across functional specializations, and the tools and theories of international planning have proven unexpectedly applicable.

Cosponsored by the American Indian Program and Engaged Learning + Research