Kenneth “KW” Pete Jr. wanted to be a farmer when he was growing up on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, but a trip to Hawaii changed his mind.
He was working on a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Idaho when he took a course in Hawaiian culture and ecology — and became interested in growing plants in greenhouses. Pete is now employed by the Bureau of Land Management as the tribe’s student greenhouse manager as he works on a master’s degree in environmental science.
Pete shoveled dirt Nov. 2 outside one of the three greenhouses on the Duck Valley reservation. It was just general maintenance to keep the outside, as well as the inside, of the greenhouses looking good and operating smoothly.
Pete, who graduated from Owyhee Combined School in 2009, was one of the students who helped build the first greenhouse there in 2006.
“The interest KW had was fostered in that first greenhouse,” said Susan Filkins, a BLM natural resource specialist.
In October, Pete and Filkins attended the Intertribal Nursery Council in Buffalo, N.Y., an annual conference open to tribal members and others who work for or with tribal agencies. They gather to share conservation information, preserve ecological knowledge and receive training. The Intertribal Nursery Council’s website says it is a Forest Service-managed, tribally guided organization for advancing the interests of native peoples involved with plant production in nurseries.
Pete and Filkins gave a presentation on the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe’s greenhouse project.
“We need more native plants on rangelands,” Pete said. “They are able to compete with exotics like cheatgrass.”
As a graduate student, he traveled with a friend — a master’s degree candidate — to Luzon in the Philippines to help indigenous people grow plants in greenhouses.
“This is part of our culture,” Pete said. “We use sagebrush for cultural reasons.”
Pete said the Shoshone-Paiute make tea from it and use it to smudge — or bless themselves — and the flowers and seed pods are edible.
Though he has traveled far from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, he didn’t want to be anywhere else Nov. 2.
“I think I’ll stick around here for now.”