Donate Now! Subscribe

WA Wild Joins Gathering of Northwest Tribes and Fellow Advocates to Build Momentum for Dam Removal

Posted on Nov 10, 2023 in Conservation News, WA Wild Blog
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.

DAY 1 

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.  

Photo: Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River, California Trout

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. 

Photo: Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times; Read the full article HERE

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.   

Photo: Arnold Thomas, second from left, of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes, leads a prayer song during a Salmon Orca summit, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in Tulalip. The men, who traveled from Nevada, are from left, Lyle Lowman, Thomas, Winston Bearing, Ty Townsend, and Derald Julianto. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times) Read the full article HERE

“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  

Energy [33:50:00] 
Moderator: Aja DeCoteau (Yakama) Executive Director CRITFC 
Nancy Hirsh, Executive Director NW Energy Coalition 
Rob Lothrop, Policy Development and Litigation Support Manager CRITFC 

Irrigation [1:03:10] 
Moderator: Lisa McShane, Principal of Blue Spruce Strategies 
James Kraft, Executive Director of Washington Water Trust 
Blaine Meek, Farmer Manager AgReserves, Inc. 

Transportation [1:36:00] 
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 

Photo: Carol Evans, center, past Chairwoman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council and first woman to serve as Tribal Chair, listens to a speaker during a Salmon Orca summit held at the Tulalip Resort, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, in Tulalip, where tribes gather from around the northwest with their supporters joining them in fighting for salmon and orca survival. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times) Read the full article HERE

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 

Youth [4:50:00] 
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  

Photo: Southern Residents in the Salish Sea, NOAA

Orca [6:46:00] 
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  

Salmon [7:40:00]  
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