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CRITFC'S Sampson Earns National Leadership Award

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - October 7, 2002

Don Sampson's leadership qualities and accomplishments this week earned him both accolades and cash as one of 20 "Leadership for a Changing World" award winners from across the nation.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission's executive director says he will use the $130,000 award to invest in future generations of Native American leaders that will be trained in environmental justice, treaty rights and salmon restoration.

The Ford Foundation this week announced the 2002 winners of the "Leadership for a Changing World" awards from 34 finalists in a pool of more than 1400 nominations. The winners represent individuals and leadership teams that are "getting results tackling tough social problems in communities across the United States," according to the foundation. Each will receive $100,000 to advance their work and an additional $30,000 for supporting activities over the next two years.

The Leadership for a Changing World program was launched in September 2000. It involves a partnership between the Ford Foundation, Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. The program seeks to raise awareness that leadership comes in many forms and from diverse communities by recognizing the achievements of outstanding leaders who are not broadly known beyond their immediate communities or fields, according to a press release announcing the award winners.

"LCW awardees demonstrate the kinds of leadership that are particularly effective in addressing the complex social realities of contemporary communities," said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. "They share the ability to bring diverse groups together to overcome divisive issues and take action that will improve people's lives."

Sampson was cited for his lifelong work to restore salmon runs and boost tribal economic health in the Northwest. CRITFC is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies for four Columbia Basin treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Sampson belongs to the Walla Walla tribe, one of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.

As members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, Sampson and his fellow leaders fought for the revival of salmon runs and watersheds on the Columbia and other rivers in the region. Sampson graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in fisheries resource management.

He served from 1985 to 1990 as lead policy and biological analyst for the Umatilla Tribal Fisheries Program, securing more than $7 million in funding for its programs. The boost in resources, along with the political help of then-Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, increased salmon returns in the Umatilla River basin from 1,500 to as many as 10,000 fish annually, according to biographical information provided for the awards program. A state-of-the-art hatchery reintroduced depleted salmon stocks into the wild. The program gradually reduced neighboring farmers' dependence on Umatilla basin water while undertaking extensive habitat restoration.

As chairman of the Umatilla tribe from 1993 to 1997, Sampson helped reverse a severely depressed tribal economy, integrating it into a rapidly developing regional economy. Under his guidance, the tribal government's payroll increased from 250 to 800 employees, tribal school enrollments grew from 1,350 to 2,100, unemployment fell from 34 percent to less than 20 percent, and the tribal government's annual budget grew from $6 million to more than $52 million.

Last year, Sampson's outreach concept, the Jammin' for Salmon festival, brought more than 17,000 people to Portland's Waterfront Park to celebrate those cultures to which salmon is centrally important across the Pacific Northwest. The festival raises funds for salmon restoration, educates the public about salmon habitat problems and chronicles environmental successes in the region.

Sampson believes that native youth must be educated in the sciences to continue and enhance the management of tribal natural resources. In 1992, he helped start the Salmon Corps program, which teaches youth about the value of salmon restoration.

More salmon-advocacy projects are under way. Sampson says his greatest future challenge will be to apply the successful Umatilla River region model of cooperative salmon restoration in the larger Columbia River basin. Over the next five years, Sampson hopes to build partnerships and strategic alliances among businesses, environmentalists, tribes, state and federal agencies and grassroots organizations. He will continue to press for alternative energy policies, protection and restoration of present salmon habitats, the restoration of degraded habitats and the use of hatcheries to help boost salmon populations while their habitats recover. This will be at least a 50-year effort, Sampson said.

"It will be a multigenerational solution. We must teach our children the importance of caring for the land, the rivers and the salmon. I cannot, in my lifetime, see the end result."

The LCW award will help kick-start a program -- the Native American Youth Leadership Development Project -- that will be used to train the leaders needed to carry out such long-term projects.

The project is intended to advance tribal leadership in environmental justice, treaty rights and salmon restoration.

The program will seek partnerships with organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund, the Inter-tribal Environmental Network, the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. These organizations will be asked to help develop internship programs for native youth between the ages of 18 and 25. The two-year internships will provide education and experience in the field of resource management with a particular focus on issues of water, environmental justice, salmon restoration, river restoration and environmental health.

The CRITFC program will engage organizations such as the Earth Conservation Corps Salmon Corps program and the Native American Youth Association to recruit candidates for the internships. CRITFC will also challenge these organizations to double the amount of the grants by matching the funds provided by the Leadership for a Changing World grant.

In future years, CRITFC will seek out federal appropriations and matching funds, to continue the program.

In the first two years of the program, the Commission hopes to offer five internships; one for a youth from each of the four member tribes and one, targeting the Portland urban Indian population. The ideal candidates will be graduates of the Salmon Corps program who have moved on to college, according to the press release.

Candidates for the awards are nominated by someone familiar with their work who can attest to their qualifications. Nominations are reviewed by a team of readers. Subsequent levels of review include regional selection committees and site visits to the recommended finalists. A national committee of independent experts in different fields, the Advocacy Institute and the Ford Foundation select the 20 awardees.

Link information:
LCW program:
Ford Foundation:
The Advocacy Institute:
The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service:

CRITFC'S Sampson Earns National Leadership Award
Columbia Basin Bulletin, October 7, 2002

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