Last week, staff from Washington Wild had the privilege to attend the Rise Up Northwest (R.U.N) in Unity Convening organized by the Nez Perce Tribe, hosted by the Tulalip Tribes at their resort and casino. Nez Perce Chairman Shannon Wheeler envisioned an unprecedented two-day gathering of Tribes, scientists, NGOs, journalists, and community members from across the Pacific Northwest. The conference aimed to exchange ideas and promote cultural awareness among a diverse group of attendees to develop a unified understanding of best practices for protecting and preserving water, orca, and salmon in the Northwest region.
The first day of the Convening began with opening remarks from Jefferson Greene of the Warm Springs Confederated Tribes in Oregon and Executive Director of the Columbia River Institute for Indigenous Development. Greene led the group in prayer and song, rooting us all in a shared sense of community and love for our salmon and Southern Resident orcas. Weaving together Sahaptin/Ichishkíin S í nwitand and English, Greene set the tone for the discussions to come centered around Tribal culture, leadership, sovereignty, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
Greene’s opening was followed with remarks from Amy Cordalis of the Yurok Tribe and Executive Director of Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group and Shannon Wheeler, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe.
Cordalis spoke about how “We are in the middle of a historic movement that has already elevated the rights of Indigenous Tribes, the rights of nature, and even human rights because all of those are interconnected.” She then shared inspiration from the Yurok Tribe’s efforts to remove four dams on the Klamath River, the largest river restoration project in history, and used it as an example of the progress already made.
“We have already come so far; we have already begun that process of healing from colonization, from genocide, and from assimilation. Now it’s time that we use those sacred rights that our ancestors preserved in the treaties and put the weight of that sovereignty behind protecting the rights, protecting the resources upon which those rights are exercised.” —Amy Cordalis (Yurok), Executive Director of Ridges to Riffles Indigenous Conservation Group
Cordalis then elaborated on how we continue to move forward into the next era of healing and restoration. She stressed that our role—as non-tribal NGOs, scientists, and activists—is to organize and bring power from the structures we belong to and place it behind Tribal sovereignty, salmon, orca, and Indigenous Peoples to advance our common cause.
After Cordalis’ speech, Shannon Wheeler, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, provided an update on the litigation brought forth by several plaintiffs, including the Nez Perce Tribe. The litigation challenges the latest federal plan for hydropower operations on the Snake River, claiming that it doesn’t do enough to save salmon from extinction.
Wheeler stressed that Tribes are simply seeking to restore balance. “We ask for some reciprocity from the United States of America. That’s truly what we’re looking at right now, is that imbalance, and trying to balance that picture out so that the salmon, the steelhead, the orca, and we as native people have a chance.”
He explained how difficult it is to maintain a culture without that interaction with the land and water and how that struggle is universal among all Tribes. He expressed how the Nez Perce Tribe is bringing the truth forward by placing the facts and data on our elected officials’ desks and letting them make their own decisions to solve these problems.
“The message to those who would seek elected offices in 2024 is that these issues need to be placed on their agendas. And not somewhere in the middle, but at the top of their agendas.” —Shannon Wheeler, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe
Chairman Wheeler concluded by inviting on stage seven drummers representing three different Columbia Basin Tribes to lead us in ceremony. Following the drums, the rest of the day was filled with powerful Tribal protocol and testimony from several Tribes as well as a showing of the documentary, Covenant of the Salmon People.
“As I was watching Nooksack Nation up here, I started to get emotional. I was just thinking about how at a certain point in history the goal was to erase Tribal Nations and yet here we are, having retained these traditions. We are so resilient. And knowing that, it seems impossible that we could lose our relative salmon.” – Kayeloni Scott, Communications Director for NW Region/River Protections Program with American Rivers and Communications Manager (Lower Snake River issues) for the Nez Perce Tribe
The approximate starting times of each agenda item are as follows:
Opening Remarks [00:35:00]
Columbia Basin Tribes Seven Drum [1:05:00]
Lummi Nation [3:18:00]
Nisqually Tribe [3:48:00]
Documentary Viewing: Covenant of the Salmon People [WATCH HERE]
Remarks from the Documentary Filmmakers [5:21:00]
Shoshone Paiute Tribes [5:49:30]
Nooksack Tribe [6:24:00]
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians [6:57:00]
Suquamish Tribe [7:44:45]
Spokane Tribe [7:55:30]
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community [not featured]
The privilege of being in ceremony with everyone present on Day 1 was a moving experience that had a profound impact on our staff. The unique opportunity to hear the diversity of languages, songs, drumbeats, and testimonies from Tribes across the PNW granted us a deeper understanding of what it means to be Salmon People and how critical lower Snake River dam removal is to upholding Tribal culture and lifeways. On Day 2, we carried this new perspective in our hearts as we shifted our focus more to the science and policy behind dam removal.
The approximate starting times of each presentation or panel discussion are as follows:
NW Legislative Salmon Champions [26:00:00]
WA Governor Jay Inslee
WA Senator Patty Murray
Moderator: Aja DeCoteau (Yakama) Executive Director CRITFC
Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director NW Energy Coalition
Karl Dye, CEO TRIDEC
Rob Lothrop, Policy Development and Litigation Support Manager CRITFC
Moderator: Lisa McShane, Principal of Blue Spruce Strategies
James Kraft, Executive Director of Washington Water Trust
Blaine Meek, Farmer Manager AgReserves, Inc.
Lisa McShane, Principal of Blue Spruce Strategies
Tanya Riordan, Policy & Advocacy Director for Save Our Wild Salmon
Ahmer Nizam, Director of Environmental Services WSDOT
Tribal Women [2:20:30]
Moderator: Kayeloni Scott (Spokane), Communications Nez Perce Tribe
Alyssa Macy (Warm Springs), CEO of Washington Conservation Action
Carol Evans (Spokane), Retired Chairwoman of the Spokane Tribe
Bob Ferguson, Attorney General Washington State [3:32:20]
Dean Hall, The Wild Cure Way [3:43:00]
Business Impacts [4:15:00]
Moderator: Shannon Wheeler, Chairman of Nez Perce Tribe
Jay Julius (Lummi Nation), President Se’Si’Le
Ashley Nicole Lewis, Owner BadAsh Outdoors
Lauren McCullough, Co-Manager OARS
Moderator: Chanel Greene (Nez Perce), CEO Xexus Greene Energy, LLC
Jalisco Miles (Nez Perce)
Lily Wilson, Youth Salmon Protectors
Maanit Goel, WYORCA
Tribal Men [5:21:00]
Moderator: Ashton Picard, Council Chaplain (Nez Perce)
Dana Wilson (Lummi), Secretary/Treasurer Se’Si’Le
Jeremy RedStar Wolf (Umatilla), Fisheries Tech III CTUIR
JeDe Goudy (Yakama), Former Council Chairman Yakama Tribe
Moderator: Lynda Mapes, Reporter/Author Seattle Times
Dr. Deborah Giles, Science & Research Director Wild Orca
Hannah Thompson, Director of Advocacy & Mission Advocacy NW Animal Rights Network
Freddie Lane (Lummi), Community Activist & Artist
Moderator: Shannon Wheeler, Chairman Nez Perce
Dave Johnson (Navajo), Manager Nex Perce Tribe Fisheries
Fawn Sharp (Quinault), President National Congress of American Indians
Phil Rigdon (Yakama), Superintendent Yakama Natural Resources