Success Stories in Tribal Waste Management
We are gathering stories and case studies on successful tribal waste projects. Consider submitting your own success story for display on this web page.
How to Submit your Tribal Waste Management Success Story
There are two methods:
- Use the online form at the bottom of this page or
- submit a contact name and their title, tribe name, contact's email address and phone number, project title, and a success story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidelines for your success stories:
- Keep your success story under 2,000 characters, or about five paragraphs. Otherwise, the story may be omitted from being posted.
- Be sure to include the contact name and email for your tribe, so that we can discuss posting your success story on the website.
The success stories on this page are hidden currently. Click the triangle () to read the success story or hide it when you're finished.
Tribe: Tribal Solid Waste Advisory Network (tribal consortium of 33 tribes)
Contact: Kami Snowden, Executive Director
Read the Tribal Solid Waste Advisory Network's Success Story
Founded in 1997, the Tribal Solid Waste Advisory Network (TSWAN) is a non-profit alliance of 33 federally-recognized tribes from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. TSWAN has over 10 years of successful, ground-breaking work to strategize and implement solid waste solutions in Indian country. Successes include creating and implementing the TSWAN Integrated Solid Waste Planning Template – a unique tutorial to help tribes write integrated solid waste management plans which are suited to their localities, cultures and needs. In addition, TSWAN employs a circuit rider who works one-on-one with tribal staff to do waste sorts and other aspects of solid waste planning and data gathering. The network has proved an effective way to bring tribes together to share successes and challenges – resulting in a national model for working together on solid waste.
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Tribe: Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Oregon
Contact: Bonnie Burke, Manager
Read the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation's Success Story
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation operate a comprehensive waste collection, recycling, and transfer program that serves nearly 1000 customers. The program has been recognized by EPA as the tribal government "Wastewise Partner of the Year" for 5 years. According to Program Manager Bonnie Burke, they are operating in the black this year, thanks to the ability to serve customers with a new, automated arm garbage collection truck.
The Umatilla’s waste transfer station serves 825 residential and 93 commercial customers throughout the reservation – including collection, recycling, household hazardous waste services. Solid waste is collected via curb-side and self-haul, processed, and then transferred to a county landfill 55 miles away. Recyclables and household hazardous waste are sorted and stockpiled on site and then hauled for processing and shipment to markets. The transfer facility itself is located on 7 acres owned by the tribe. It contains a 1300 sq. ft. covered concrete tippage area equipped with one 53 foot trailer; multi-use bins off-site for recyclables; a household hazardous waste storage facility; a 20 yard scrap metal container; a scale, office and customer/employee parking area.
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Tribe: Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, Washington
Contact: Loretta Zammarchi, Solid Waste Program
Read the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation's Success Story
The Yakama Indian Nation reservation is 1.2 million acres - twice as large as the state of Rhode Island. 8500 tribal members live on the reservation but they make up only 20% of the population. Thousands of non-members live on fee land in the reservation, creating a checkerboard pattern of land ownership. This land pattern combined with living in the heart of one of the nation's most fruitful farm country, creates on-going battles with illegal dumping.
Yakama Nation has developed a successful system of cleaning up dump sites and curbing illegal dumping. The Nation has worked with partners to clean up and close some very significant dumps, including a major illegal tire pile with hundreds of thousands of tires. Pumphouse Road Tire Pile was created by a non-member on fee land and threatened the health of the surrounding community. Wildfires had gotten close to the pile in the past, and if it had caught fire, it would have fouled the air and a nearby irrigation canal - harming residents and farmers alike. Yakama Nation successfully partnered with the state of Washington Department of Ecology to remove 360,000 tires for proper disposal.
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Tribe: Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (consortium of 66 tribes)
Contact: Jon Waterhouse, Executive Director
Read the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council's Success Story
The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) is a consortium of 66 tribes and first nations in Alaska and Canada. The YRITWC origins began in 1997 when chiefs and elders from peoples living along the Yukon River gathered in Galena, Alaska. They came together to talk about growing health problems in their communities, inadequate environmental monitoring and loss of their ways of life. Out of this first talking circle they evolved a new alliance--the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council--whose goal is to “once again drink clean water directly from the River as our ancestors before us.”
The YRITWC works to increase water quality and environmental integrity in a massive ecosystem including 2300 miles of river. The program has included a coordinated effort on the solid waste front – running a backhaul/recycling program which has removed over 10 million pounds of wastes from tribal communities along the Yukon River since 2005.
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Tribe: Native Village of Nikolski
Contact: Tanya Kyle, Tribal Administrator
Read the Native Village of Nikolski's Success Story
The Native Village of Nikolski is a small traditional Aleut community in the central Aleutian Islands. Archeologists have recovered evidence leading them to believe Nikolski may be the oldest continuously occupied community site in the western hemisphere. Residents of Nikolski rely on the reef and waters nearby, which supply a rich diversity of wild foods.
The Native Village of Nikolski successfully worked with partners to complete a drum consolidation project that has served as a model for other villages in remote parts of Alaska. Over 200 drums, junk vehicles, and scrap metal were removed from the site, and contaminated soils are in the process of being cleaned up. The effort, coordinated with help from the EPA Indian General Assistance Program, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Chaluka Corporation, and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Inc., removed waste from the community for safe burial. This work is monumental considering the remote location and harsh weather in Nikolski. Frequent violent storms, constant winds, and dense fog visit the island, making it inaccessible most of the year.
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Tribe: Native Village of Eek
Contact: Janet McIntyre, Native Village of Eek IGAP Coordinator
Read the Native Village of Eek's Success Story
Eek lies on the south bank of the Eek River, 12 miles east of the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, and 420 miles west of Anchorage. It is classified as an isolated village surrounded by wetlands and accessible only by air, barge, or river transportation. Products come in via barge and once used, stay in Eek as waste – shipping it out has historically been logistically complicated and expensive. Over the years, the dump filled with household trash, electronics, construction debris, appliances, plastics, old batteries, animal carcasses, and more.
Eek is a traditional Yup’ik Eskimo village. The villagers rely on a subsistence lifestyle and as a result, money to support waste collection and disposal is extremely limited. Siting a landfill is tricky at Eek – the ground surface in the area is covered with numerous small lakes or wet, poorly-draining tundra. Managing a landfill at Eek would also require practices to minimize damage to permafrost. The active layer above the permafrost at Eek generally consists of 2 to 5 feet in depth. The permafrost there is relatively warm and icy – requiring above ground pipe systems and building methods to keep the soil frozen and stable.
EPA Solid Waste Liaisons visited Eek and found that co-mingled honey bucket waste and municipal solid waste at the dump site had created an unsafe and unsanitary situation for people visiting the site. They raised the concerns to city and tribal staff who also were very worried about the health impacts of the dump and the potential impacts on drinking water. They worked together to identify site improvements and enlist the help of the EPA Indian General Assistance Program. Staff worked with the village to re-direct some of their grant funds to sponsor clean up work at the dump and make it safer until a new landfill is built.
USDA-Rural Development staff worked with village leaders to apply for and secure funds to take steps to close the dump and build a new, compliant landfill. Environmental and engineering reports for the projects have been completed and were approved by USDA in 2009. The most critical piece of the puzzle is a newly funded state project to construct a waste water/sewage system at Eek that will replace the old honey bucket system.
While funding from federal and state levels is important, the critical piece of the puzzle is the growing cooperation between the Village of Eek and the City of Eek. Working together, the community is getting greater support that before. Workers at Eek took cleaned waste off the ground and consolidated it into super sacks. A great deal of labor went into this successful work.
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