SPARKS, Nev. – The Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire more American Indians and consider changes in grant programs to improve understanding of cultural issues and better address tribal concerns, agency leaders say.
“I’m very committed to diversity and Native Americans especially are underrepresented at EPA,” said Marianne Lamont Horinko, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
She’s among a number of EPA officials, including chief administrator Christie Whitman, addressing the Sixth National Tribal Conference on Environmental Management meeting in Sparks through Friday.
“I am very committed to bringing in more Native Amercians to help integrate tribal concerns into our mission,” said Horinko, who oversees EPA work on Superfund sites as well as programs to clean up polluted industrial sites known as brownfields.
Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, said he’s noticed in recent years increased sensitivity on the part of the EPA in dealing with tribe’s social and cultural concerns while addressing various forms of pollution.
“It’s consistently getting better. There’s more of a recognition of native people, indigenous issues and environmental issues,” Wallace said in an interview.
“For us, history is more about place than it is about time. The wellness of these places is critical to our survival as a people,” he said.
Jerry Pardilla, executive director of the National Tribal Environmental Council, said during a panel discussion with Horinko and others that EPA programs often are geared toward states and don’t work well for tribes.
“The requirements for matching funds to do cleanup often pose a barrier to tribes,” he said.
Horinko said some states too are having trouble coming up with matching funds for EPA grants, but acknowledged, “tribes are particularly uniquely challenged.”