Engaging Young Native Voices in Kalispel Tribe’s First Comprehensive Master Land Use Plan 

Engaging Young Native Voices in Kalispel Tribe’s First Master Land Use Plan

Nestled across the Pend Oreille River from Cusick, Washington, and twenty-five minutes north on Washington’s scenic byway from Newport, Washington is the Kalispel Indian Reservation. With 483 Tribal Members and nearly 30% under the age of 18, if there was ever a crucial moment to hear young Native voices, it was during the Master Land Use Plan process. In 2022 the Kalispel Tribe hired SCJ Alliance, a local consulting firm, to help facilitate the Tribe’s first comprehensive Master Land Use Plan. It was identified early in the process that public engagement would be crucial to the overall success of this planning effort. More specifically, it was critical to engage local Native youth as they prepare to enter the workforce and look for housing options within the area. Planning staff surveyed the public and tribal members electronically and at several public events, with one session strictly geared at Native youth.

The youth engagement session took place in the Cusick High School Library during their lunch hour. 40 students were asked to use sticky notes to share what they appreciated about the area and what they wish existed in the area. Students then placed the sticky notes on a corresponding map. This session was a great learning opportunity and inspiring for the Kalispel Tribe planning staff. It was observed that many students dreamt of third spaces and stronger placemaking efforts—something planning staff has been interested in for some time and which they now have a tangible basis for moving forward. The main takeaway here was that this session was simple, cost-effective, and could be replicated for other projects because it was easy to complete. While the activity was simple, it yielded impactful results.

Over the past several years that I have worked for the Kalispel Tribe, there has been great discussion within Pend Oreille County stakeholders voicing their concerns about having a place for their children to “come back to.” For me, as a planner, this was a chance to dive right in and start trying to create spaces for young people who are from the area to attend college, go to trade school, or complete apprenticeships and return to work within the region. This simple engagement session and window of opportunity to share lunch with Native youth will open even larger doors for the future of the Kalispel Tribe.

 Those interested in learning more about this youth engagement effort can contact the Kalispel Tribe’s Planner, Madi Casto at [email protected] or by phone, 509-671-1675. The Tribe also worked with a consulting firm with an office in Spokane, SCJ Alliance. Those interested can reach Rachelle Bradley at [email protected] or at 509-835-3770.


If you are interested in learning more about how to engage youth in planning efforts, particularly major updates to Comprehensive Plans, please join the Youth in Planning Task Force & Comp Plan Academy meetings on the first Wednesday of every month, from 8-9am Pacific on Zoom or visit the Youth in Planning website at: https://www.washington-apa.org/youth-in-planning

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