I am from Nłq̓alqʷ (“Place of the thick trees”, Arlee, Montana). I am Bitterroot Band of Salish in Montana and Diné from Beshbihtoh Valley in Arizona. I am a hydrogeologist and science educator with interest in Indigenous research methodologies, geoscientific ethnography, Indigenous astronomy, social-political tribal structures, culturally congruent instructional strategies, and Indigenous science philosophies. Most of my work in recent years has focused on community engagement to understanding shifts in an Indigenous paradigm of research for science knowledge production. This work has included investigations into traditional oral histories and customs that inform understanding of landscape phenomenon.
Listen to my podcast on your preferred app here: Tribal Research Specialist
UBC Indigenous Strategic Initiative Fund – “Toward the Development of an Indigenous Science Research Seminar/Course Series” - Principal Applicant
The overarching goal is to gain a greater understanding of interest in and sustainability of a future course(s) focusing on Indigenous Science Research, ways of knowing and Indigenous philosophies of science in the Faculty of Science at UBC. To move toward this understanding, this project seeks to explore the development of a special topics pilot course in Indigenous Science leveraging the science and Indigenous expertise of the applicants. A course design will be explored to capture the diversity of Indigenous thought and perspectives of the Indigenous scholars’ respective Faculties and their own communities research traditions.
UBC Indigenous Strategic Initiative Fund – “Yeendoo Diinehdoo Ji’heezrit Nits’oo Ts’o’ Nan He’aa (After Our Time, How Will the World Be)” - Project Co-Lead
This project, lead by the UBC Climate Emergency team and UBC Sustainability Hub, proposes to support the coordination and mobilization efforts of the Vuntut Gwitchin Government (VGG) to meet ambitious climate emission targets through expanded research and the practical application of Indigenous knowledge and science to develop climate solutions. In addition, the proposal will identify and enhance opportunities to support VGG’s nation-building efforts to develop skills and competencies that responds to the communities climate emergency. The project will also learn with and from Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN) about ethical, respectful and reciprocal partnerships that respect and activate multiple ways of knowing and being on the land and support Indigenous-led climate action. Finally, the project will engage students in multi-disciplinary and collaborative research initiatives that are at the intersection of Indigenous rights and climate justice.
UBC Indigenous Strategic Initiative Fund – “Inaugural First Salmon Ceremony at UBC: Sustaining Inter-Cultural Relationships for Our Shared Future” - Project Co-Lead
In the Pacific Northwest, salmon are central to Indigenous lives, well-being, and knowledges. Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples from California to Kamchatka have acknowledged the annual return of salmon through ceremony to practice gratitude for the gift of salmon. This ceremony is a vital act of witnessing and intergenerational knowledge transfer where salmon are honoured through story, song, and prayer, and the first salmon caught is prepared, divided, and shared with those in attendance. Following this feast, bones and remains are gathered, placed on cedar boughs, and returned to the sea to nourish the waters and give thanks. This ceremony has been violently interrupted through colonization, thus altering the sacred balance between people and waters, but Indigenous Peoples across the Pacific Rim are putting it ‘violently’ back in place (the latter violence refers to the great strength and sound with which these practices are returning and made visible). We are proposing to co-host UBC’s Inaugural First Salmon Ceremony in full and equal partnership with the Nations whose territories comprise what is now known as Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as well as neighbouring Tribes. This will create a remarkable on-campus opportunity for inter-cultural learning, for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to come together in celebration, and Indigenous Peoples to revitalize this cultural tradition (UNDRIP Article 12:1; TRC Action 48:ii; ISP Actions 8, 21, 22; MMIWG Action 2:i, 7:i). The resurgence of these ceremonies is central to the revitalization of Indigenous food and cultural systems and healing for Indigenous Peoples
UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancment Fund - Earth Science Experiential and Indigenous Learning (EaSEIL) - Project Co-Lead
The EaSEIL project aims to create space for collaborative reflection among students, instructors, staff, and community members to reimagine, develop, and transform field-based experiential learning across multiple programs, departments and Faculties at UBC, including geological sciences. The focus of transformation is on three foundational pillars: increased opportunities for interdisciplinary education; the respectful integration of Indigenous Knowledge, histories, and ways of knowing into course content; and an increase in accessibility and inclusion through the development of online field-based learning options. Specifically, EaSEIL will: (1) engage UBC students and faculty in a formalized interdisciplinary community of practice that fosters professional development in these areas, produces common tools, and supports the creation of new/enhanced/expanded opportunities for field-based interdisciplinary experiential learning in courses for hundreds of students each year; and (2) identify and build partnership models/pathways for Indigenous community engagement and the incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge, histories, and ways of knowing into UBC courses.
UBC Science Innovation Fund - Developing a toolkit for assessing student understanding of how Indigenous topics intersect with their field of study - Project Co-Lead
This project aims to support Indigenous Strategic Plan (ISP) efforts across UBC Science (and beyond) by developing an assessment toolkit that can be used by instructors or units to determine whether students are reporting a greater understanding of how Indigenous topics intersect with their field of study in Science.
UBC Science Innovation Fund - Developing relationships and partnerships with Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students in UBC Science - Project Co-Lead
This project aims to engage and partner with Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students in UBC Science to learn more about their experiences, needs, and desires with respect to curriculum, pedagogy, research, educational programming, and advising. This initiative aligns with the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan priorities and more specifically, to the UBC Science Strategic Plan Year 1 priority to “work to better understand priorities for embedding Indigenous perspectives and practices across the UBC Science community.” This project stems from the interests of Indigenous faculty and students in UBC Science who crave more opportunities to engage with one another, to share their ideas and concerns, and to advise on decolonization and reconciliation work in UBC Science.
A Review of Salish Astronomical Knowledge
This ongoing research is being conducted on the current state of knowledge of Salish astronomy. The research relies on archival documents and previously documented ethnographic interviews to develop a review of Salish astronomical knowledge. The research aims to provide a greater understanding of traditional perceptions of astronomy and how it was operationalized historically to shape temporal thought on economic, social, and spiritual activities. The overarching goal is to advance Tribal, local and national understandings of community science from a traditional astronomy discipline. Further, this research aids in advancing an understanding and establish the importance of an Indigenous worldview for community-based research while engaging an Indigenous research structures.
Heart of the Monster: Salish Ethnohydrolgical Observation and River Behavior
Traditional hydrological understanding provides an opportunity to investigate water-related knowledge beyond Western science. Traditional hydrological concepts allow an equitable examination of both hydroscience and local tribal knowledge. This research works toward arriving at an assemblage of ideological, cultural, and technical aspects of knowledge on water to expand the use of Traditional hydrological knowledge for Indigenous people.
The ‘Heart of the Monster’ is a scree slope located on the western face of a mountain range southeast of Arlee, MT. The landform is traditionally known as the “Heart of the Monster” as it is the remnant of a Nałisqé (Human Eater) heart that was cast onto the mountain by Snč̓l̓é (Coyote). The traditional creation story, that are only told during the winter months, further describes how this landform and other geomorphic features came to be. Further, the scree slope was historically observed by the Seliš as a hydrological observation point. This observation point was one of many indicators of the beginning of important activities such as the start of the summer buffalo hunt, a 300-mile journey to the eastern plain of Montana. These landscape indicators offered clues to mitigate risk such as navigation of the trail to the buffalo hunting grounds that provided a mix of dangers from enemy raiders, steep and narrow trails and a handful of dangerous river crossings. The Traditional hydrological knowledge of the Seliš and surrounding tribes was an integral part of living and navigating this landscape.
An exploration of our ancestor’s hydrological knowledge as it related to the ‘Heart of the Monster’, the buffalo trail and river crossings are explored using modern hydrological tools. The technology of today required to assess hydrological and land-based phenomenon is widely available for Indigenous nations and their land managers. Additionally, Traditional hydrological and landscape knowledge used by our ancestors has been slowly diminishing. This research seeks to reclaim that knowledge while providing evidence of equitability to the technology in used today for emerging Indigenous land-based scholars.
A Conceptual Framework for Indigenous Research Methodologies for Science Knowledge Production
This research goal seeks to address a need to diversify scientific thought through the exploration of Indigenous research traditions. The benefits of diversity in scientific thought has been thoroughly reviewed, notable is the concept that the Indigenous experience and approaches have the potential to support a progression toward novel and innovative science understandings. Realizing diversity of though should progress toward the acknowledgment of a science system recognized as distinctly from an Indigenous worldview and legitimized within an Indigenous validation structure. To advance toward this research goal the following objectives are proposed the following are proposed; 1) Characterize local Indigenous historical and current ontological understandings as related to natural environment through direct investigations, 2) Determine local Indigenous historical and current community normative axiological commitments related to the purpose and intent of science knowledge production and 3) Operationalize normative epistemological commitment supported by local Indigenous ontology and axiology for geoscience, natural resources and environmental conservation knowledge production.
Co-development of a survey instrument to elicit Native American preferences for preventing dreissenid mussel invasion of Flathead Lake, Montana
The long-term goal of this research is to estimate the potential costs to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) from the looming threat of dreissenid mussel invasion into Flathead Lake. Acknowledging that tribal preferences may differ from Anglo American values, we seek to provide culturally relevant economic cost estimates using a willingness to pay framework (WTP). The goal of this application is to co-develop with CSKT a WTP survey instrument with cultural relevance and a data collection strategy appropriate for a Tribal setting. The following research objectives will be used to meet our present and long-term goals: 1) model the disruption in ecological processes and ecosystem services in Flathead Lake from the presence of dreissenid mussles; 2) co-develop a survey instrument and data collection approach to value ecosystem services of significance to the Tribe that are altered by mussel invasion; 3) identify actionable recommendations to incorporate future results into Tribal policy and outreach efforts to prevent the introduction of the invasive mussels. We will conduct three focus groups at locations within the Flathead Indian Reservation to pretest question formats, answer sets, length of the survey, and clarity and believability of the hypothetical scenarios.
Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction, University of Montana, 2018
M.S. Geology, University of Montana, 2006
B.S. Environmental Science, Salish Kootenai College, 2000
2021 - Present; Assistant Professor of Teaching; Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science; University of British Columbia
2020 - Present; Affiliated Faculty; Organismal Biology, Ecology and Evolution Program; University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station
2019 - 2020; Director; Indigenous Research Center; Salish Kootenai College
2010 - 2020; Lecturer; Hydrology Department; Salish Kootenai College
2008 - 2010; Adjunct Instructor; Environmental Science Department; Salish Kootenai College
2010 - 2011; Lead Instructor; Big Sky Science Partnership Summer Institute; Salish Kootenai College & University of Montana
2010: Co-Founded the Salish Kootenai College Hydrology Associates and Bachelor’s degree program
2013: Co-Founder of the Faculty Research Group at Salish Kootenai College
2019: Established the Indigenous Research Center at Salish Kootenai College
2018-2020: Salish Kootenai College Faculty Association
Nelson, N., Pete, S.H., Neher, C., Duffield, J. & Devlin, S. 2022. "Tribal Perspectives on Preventing the Introduction of Zebra Mussels into Flathead Lake, Montana." No. fk4xj. Center for Open Science
Pete, S.H. 2020. “Seliš ontological perspectives of environmental sustainability from oral traditions.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 43, p.71-76
Pete, S.H. 2020. “SKC Research Center uses Indigenous methodologies in STEM”. Tribal College Journal, 31(3), p.13
Pete, S.H. & Old Bull, S.A. 2019. “Tribal College American Indian Faculty Perspectives On Sub-Oppression, Racial Microaggression” In N.D. Hartlep & D. Ball (Eds.), Racial Battle Fatigue in Faculty: Perspectives and Lessons from Higher Education, 1st Edition (Chapter 11). London, United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis Group - Routledge
Pete, S.H. 2018. “Mediating Cultural Border Crossings Between American Indian Tribal College Students and Natural Resources Science Learning using Culturally Congruent Education” Dissertation, University of Montana, Missoula.
Pete, S.H. 2014. Salish Language and Scientific Reasoning. In F. David Peat (ed.) The Pari Dialogues, Volume II – Essays in Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science, Pari Publishing, Grosseto, Italy
Pete, S.H. 2006. Characterization of pre and post re-naturalized surface water/groundwater exchange, Jocko River, Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana. Masters Thesis, University of Montana, Missoula.