Flier uses education to land Tribal Natural Resources position

It started at her grandmother's backyard swimming pool in southeast Portland, says Meagan Flier (pronounced Fleer), 24, the Tribe's latest success story to benefit from Tribal education funding.

That pool is where her love of water, and then the whole outdoors, began.

Flier accounts for her success in a couple of ways.

  "My mom, who prepared me for college," she says. "She gave me a lot of support. She said, 'Get good grades in elementary school so you can get into a good high school.' And right through college. I always strive to go above and beyond. Having those expectations was a really good driving force.

"Also, sports really help kids by teaching discipline and teamwork, exercising patience. I did soccer, softball, swimming and roller skating. Three sports a season; no big deal. I would've done more if I could have."

She also points to College Horizons, a company that makes an appearance at different universities to help Native students get through the college application processes and exposes high school students to "a ton of different colleges. Tribal members can get into that."

"Aspirations to go to college really helped me," she adds.

Today, after college at Stanford University and graduate school at the University of Miami, she is the Natural Resources Department's Environmental Resources specialist.

"I've always kind of strived to live in a way that I can be a role model for others," she says. "Grand Ronde helped put me through a lot of my schooling, so I always wanted to find a way to give back to the Tribe."

She also says that this work is a good fit for her. "I can use my education and my passion for water and the environment to help the Tribe with its commitment to the environment."

She says she aims to be a good steward of Tribal land and water resources.

In her new position that she started on June 2, she is responsible for many things, from ocean planning to designating wetlands on Tribal property.

She also is looking at the Tribal position on climate change to see if it needs to be updated. "To assess our vulnerability and see if there is more we can do to adapt," she says.

Natural Resources Manager Michael Wilson says that one of the big things Flier has been hired to do is environmental compliance.

"To help the Tribe to take control of its environmental resources," Wilson says, "to ensure that the Tribe will be a leader on environmental resources issues."

Flier brings to the job a 2012 bachelor's degree in Earth Systems and a 2013 master's in Professional Science in Marine Affairs and Policy.

This schooling, she says, pointed her to environmental problems and a way to develop solutions.

"I knew I loved the water," she says, "and I love math and science in general."

The Natural Resources position is essentially her first job, but she also has had internships, including one at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and at Oregon Health & Science University, doing a lot of work with ocean and estuary planning.

"They are working to bring Natives in," she says. The program is not an obvious choice for a medical center like OHSU, but it exists there because ocean health is related to human health. Water is the basis of human life.

She also interned with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Miami.

Her goal in Grand Ronde is to help the Tribe accomplish goals already set out, to work toward being the best environmental steward the Tribe can be.

"I want to be the best representative for the Tribe that I can be, and act as a bridge between scientists and other government entities," she says.

When Flier was younger, she remembers, she used to get education awards at the Tribe for good grades and educational success.

After her travels in education and sports, she returned to the Tribe, all these years later, by joining Chinuk Wawa classes at the Portland office. It was November 2013, and it led to this year's job, a good match for both and a story worth telling again and again for those still on the way.