Nespelem, Wash.— It’s not every day a new office joins the university Extension network, but this month the Colville Confederated Tribes and Washington State University established the first Tribal Extension office in Washington State.
WSU Extension is home to Washington State 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners, and supports agricultural, natural resource, and family and consumer science programs. For Linda McLean, enrolled Colville Tribal member and Colville Reservation Extension’s new director, these programs have been close to her heart and a huge part of her life since she was young.
Growing up on the Colville Reservation in the Keller district, she was actively involved in 4-H for 10 years. Now she, along with her family, raises beef cattle and dry-land grain crops, applying what she learned in 4-H and through Extension research to her family’s ranching operation. Her own children are also 4-H alumni. She knows that their 4-H participation enabled them to learn valuable life skills needed to become caring, contributing citizens.
“As we celebrate 100 years of Extension, it is fitting that we start out the next 100 years by having our office designated as a self-directing Extension office,” she said.
On July 24, the office hosted a gathering of nearly a hundred attendees including Colville Tribal council members, the WSU Provost and Provost’s Tribal Liaison, WSU alumni, extension directors and educators, donors, and community members in Nespelem to celebrate the 40th Extension office in the state.
For the past 25 years, WSU and the Colville Confederated Tribes have been working together to support families, farmers, and youth through Extension programs in Ferry and Okanogan counties, said WSU Extension Tribal Liaison, Dan Fagerlie. He shared a story that a tribal elder once told him about how a seedling that grows under a tree looks protected by the mother tree, but it grows up spindly. It needs to be out on its own in the rain and wind to grow up strong on its own.
“Now tribal extension is no longer a branch office, but out on its own,” Fagerlie said. “It’s grown it’s own roots and now it’s self-directing. As a self-directing office, the director will work with the tribal council and leaders, along with help from WSU, to determine what the priorities are and what the program will look like in the future.”
Provost Dan Bernardo, previously the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resources and director of Extension, also attended the celebration, sharing WSU’s commitment to inclusivity and educating the people of Washington state from different incomes and racial backgrounds. He said about 38 percent of this year’s incoming class will be students of color and nearly 44 percent will be first generation college students.
Rich Koenig, extension director also congratulated McLean, Fagerlie, and other partners on their commitment to seeing the process through.
“Truly, it is a historic moment to officially designate this office as the 40th member of the WSU extension network,” Koenig said at the event.
Fagerlie, who has been working with the tribes for the past 34 years, gave thanks to WSU leadership which also included WSU Tribal Liaison, Barb Aston; State 4-H Director Pat Boyes, the Colville Confederated Tribal Council, and the private donor who have made the self-directed extension office possible.
To read more stories from the Colville Confederated Tribes and others impacted by WSU Extension, visit the Story Project at ext100.wsu.edu/anniversary/storyproject.