Office of Environmental Management

DOE Offices Partner With Nonprofit to Advance STEM in Indian Country

September 3, 2019

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Representatives from DOE, Idaho National Laboratory, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, 100Kin10, and others gather for a photo after meeting to discuss challenges and opportunities in advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Representatives from DOE, Idaho National Laboratory, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, 100Kin10, and others gather for a photo after meeting to discuss challenges and opportunities in advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – The past, present, and future came together when Shoshone-Bannock Tribes member Talia Martin explained the history, cultural significance, and continued environmental protection at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The areas in and around INL are part of the tribes’ aboriginal lands. Martin's cultural resources tour was part of a site visit to INL and Fort Hall Reservation sponsored by 100Kin10 to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and DOE lead a project team in partnership with 100Kin10 titled, "Supporting STEM Education in Tribal Communities." Through 100Kin10’s national network, partners form teams to work on projects with the goal of adding 100,000 more STEM teachers to America’s classrooms by 2021.

A tour for DOE representatives and others at the Idaho National Laboratory Site stopped to view Big Southern Butte, which holds spiritual significance for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
A tour for DOE representatives and others at the Idaho National Laboratory Site stopped to view Big Southern Butte, which holds spiritual significance for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

In Idaho, the team is examining the STEM and workforce needs of both DOE and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, whose independent assessments of air and water quality are being impacted by retirements.

“The timing of our visit coincided perfectly with the Fort Hall Indian Festival, which allowed us to experience many social and traditional aspects important to the tribes,” said Albert “Brandt” Petrasek, EM tribal affairs director. “Firsthand experience with tribes in their homelands is a critical step in both federal and private entities working to build enduring partnerships.”

EM and Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) partner with STEM-based organizations to provide tribal communities with greater access to STEM resources, technical skills training, internships, and long-term employment opportunities. That work is endorsed by DOE’s Nuclear Energy Tribal Working Group and State and Tribal Government Working Group, and aligns with the federal strategy for STEM education.

“To solve complex problems and develop innovative solutions in the energy and environmental sectors, we must build a diverse, future-ready STEM workforce,” said Melinda Higgins, NE STEM advisor. “We now consider workforce development to begin in the K-12 space, introducing students and educators to a plethora of careers so that they can build the critical thinking and problem-solving skills to excel in their professional lives."

From left, Talia Martin with Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Melissa Thibault with 100Kin10, and LaRae Bill with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes discuss the topography of the land and its rivers during the Idaho National Laboratory Site tour.

Foundation for Indigenous Education, Leadership Development, and Sustainability (FIELDS) founder Doyle Anderson guided the EM, NE, INL, and 100Kin10 tour group through the FIELDS laboratory at the Shoshone-Bannock Junior and Senior High School.

FIELDS runs a trades and technology program that includes electrical, hydraulic, mechanics, and other learning stations, providing Fort Hall Indian Reservation students with the equivalent of 1.5 years of college experience.

“These programs are designed to build a robust student pipeline into higher education and employment in the skilled workforce,” Anderson said.

EM Tribal Affairs Director Albert “Brandt” Petrasek, Foundation for Indigenous Education, Leadership Development, and Sustainability (FIELDS) CEO Doyle Anderson, DOE Office of Nuclear Energy Tribal STEM Advisor Melinda Higgins, and 100Kin10’s Kathy Hoppe.
EM Tribal Affairs Director Albert “Brandt” Petrasek, Foundation for Indigenous Education, Leadership Development, and Sustainability (FIELDS) CEO Doyle Anderson, DOE Office of Nuclear Energy Tribal STEM Advisor Melinda Higgins, and 100Kin10’s Kathy Hoppe.

LaRae Bill, a Shoshone-Bannock cultural resources specialist, said young people in the tribal communities need to expand their knowledge of science and technology.

“Technology could play an important role in protecting our cultural resources so that it isn’t lost. The old-school archaeologists and anthropologists refer to it as pre-history, but I’d rather term it as pre-contact (before Europeans settled in North America) because we, as the indigenous people, have a long history going back more than 15,000 years on this continent,” Bill said.

Earlier this summer, EM and NE representatives visited the Nez Perce, Wanapum, Yakama, and Umatilla tribes near the Hanford Site.

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