a call to action
Road maintenance is an ongoing problem on American Indian tribal reservations in the United States. Sherwin Racehorse, an Eastern Washington University student originally from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho, is dedicating his career in transportation planning to improving the condition of tribal roads, and he calls out to students and future transportation professionals to join the cause.
Racehorse is a returning college student who has already spent 16 years in the workforce as a transportation planner for tribal governments. Racehorse is also a two-time recipient of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship for 2011 and 2012; a 2012 Udall Scholar; president of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society at EWU; and a member of the American Indian Business Leaders association. He is also actively involved in tribal government and reservation culture throughout the northwest region of the U.S.
Racehorse said he is driven by his belief that the transportation system is the backbone of a strong and safe community, and that the current, dilapidated condition of the tribal road system is a cause for alarm.
“[Access to] clinics, schools, education ? everything in our communities depends on a good road system,” he said.
Racehorse and other tribal transportation planners are facing a major challenge: a high percentage of Tribal Transportation Roads jointly administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are considered to be sub-par in terms of their state of repair, and are therefore inadequate when it comes to safety. For this reason, Racehorse urges students who want to make a difference to explore careers in transportation planning for tribal governments.
“Find out about the disparity in inventory and our critical condition of roadways,” he said. “Try to learn about the Indian Reservation Roads Program, about the Interior Funded Programs in transportation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Lands Highway Office.”
Tribal governments will also increasingly need young experts with degrees and experience in the fields of transportation planning, engineering, and construction to keep up with growing road maintenance demands and to conduct research on existing or new technologies to make road maintenance not only less expensive, but longer-lasting.
Above all, Racehorse said it was most important for students to continue their educations.
“Finish your high school diploma. Go to college,” he said. “That’s where we need you the most?educated.”
To learn more about tribal reservation roads, visit the United States Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs website, the FHWA Federal Lands Highway Office, or the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).