The High Desert Museum is offering a unique and interesting Native American look at the sage grouse in the program "Sage Grouse Legends and Dance of the Wasco and Northern Paiute." The event will be led by Wilson Wewa, a cultural expert from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Wewa's ancestry stems from the Northern Paiute and Palouse Nez Perce tribes. A "Wasco Sage Grouse Dance" will be featured as part of the presentation.
The greater sage grouse has received much attention this past year. In September, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made a monumental decision to not list the grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. For the past five years this iconic bird has been under the microscope due to dwindling numbers in the 11 western states where the bird is found. Wildlife biologists estimate there were once more than 15 million birds roaming the western United States and Canada. Today, between 500,000 and 2 million birds inhabit the sage steppe.
What led to these dwindling numbers? There are several factors, including human development. According to biologists, the bird needs a lot of space to thrive. The threat of being listed as endangered led to massive conservation plans in Oregon and other states that will be implemented and closely monitored for success. For instance, Oregon has led the way in juniper removal on public and private lands. The bird and junipers don't mix. Birds of prey use junipers to stalk sage grouse and their nesting areas. Junipers also consume a great deal of water and crowd out the sage brush that is essential to the health of the grouse. Where there are fewer juniper trees there is more and better sage habitat for the grouse, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope.
For westerners, the greater sage grouse represents a way of life. For many Native Americans, it represents a harmony with nature that is essential to life. When the grouse thrives, the entire eco-system thrives, including hundreds of other birds, animals, and even insects.
To see the sage grouse and its mating habits, this footage videotaped by Wahoo Films and provided by the Oregon Natural Desert Association is a fascinating view: http://bit.ly/SageGrouseDance
Sage Grouse Legends and Dance of the Wasco and Northern Paiute
5:30-7:30 pm, Thursday, Dec. 3
High Desert Museum,
59800 South Highway 97, Bend
$3 members, $7 non-members