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Schitsu’umsh ł sqigwts: A 3D Approach to Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change
MRIC 2015/16

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Schitsu’umsh ł sqigwts: A 3D Approach to Indigenous Knowledge and Climate Change

Rodney Frey
Department of Sociology/Anthropology
Brian Cleveley
Program in Virtual Technology and Design
Steven Daley-Laursen
Department of Natural Resources and Society

Presented with support of the Provost’s Office and University Honors Program


Coeur d’Alene tribal professionals in natural and cultural resources and tribal elders, and University of Idaho faculty researchers in anthropology, data management, natural resources, and virtual-world technology worked as co-investigators on a project that demonstrates the value and applicability of indigenous knowledge/practice as complementary to empirical science in addressing climate change. The project focuses on the Schitsu’umsh knowledge and practice, called hnkhwelkhwlnet “our ways of life in the world,” associated with the traditional root food, sqigwts / Sagittaria latifolia (“water potato”). The hnkhwelkhwlnet insights offered are applicable to climate change, vividly demonstrating how a place-based tribe responds to changes in its environment over time.


Rodney Frey is a professor of ethnography who has been at the UI since 1998. Over the past 40 years, he has worked collaboratively with Native communities such as the Coeur d’Alene, Crow, Nez Perce, Spokane and Warm Springs. Co-authored with members of these communities are such books as: "As Driftwood Lodges: The World of the Crow Indians" (1987), "Stories the Make the World: Oral Traditions of the Indian People of the Inland Northwest" (1991), and "Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane: the World of the Schitsu’umsh – Coeur d’Alene Indians" (2001). Frey earned his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. He is indebted to his Native mentors Tom and Susie Yellowtail, Lawrence Aripa, Rob Moran, and Cliff SiJohn.

Brian Cleveley is a virtual world developer and faculty member in the Virtual Technology and Design (VTD) program at the University of Idaho. He has been with the university since 1991. Within VTD Brian teaches virtual world development and senior capstone design. Cleveley has been working with virtual worlds for more than 17 years, exploring user presence, storytelling and the effective use of virtual worlds in non-entertainment roles (also known as serious gaming). He has been a PI and co-PI on multiple state and federal grants, as well as working with private sector and non-profit organizations. Cleveley holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from the University of Idaho, a bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Manitoba and an honours diploma of architectural technologies from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Steven B. Daley-Laursen is a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Society at the University of Idaho. He served as dean of the College of Natural Resources from 2002 to 2008 and as interim president of the University in 2008-09. Since 2009, he has been senior executive in the Office of Research and Economic Development. His scholarly work has focused on the science-policy interface, modeling of forest systems, forest entomology, leadership development in environmental and higher education, frameworks for inter-institutional partnership, data management, and technology transfer methodology. He teaches courses in Natural Resource Policy and Introduction to Natural Resources and Environmental Science. He earned a master’s in forest resources management and a doctorate in forest science from the University of Idaho.

Funding for this project was provided by DOI Northwest Climate Science Center and USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, in Cooperative Agreement # G11AC20490.

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