Salmon People: Tracing Indigenous resistance across the Pacific Northwest

Jan. 21, 2021 - Jan. 21, 2021 / Zoom

Thursday, January 21, 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET
With Ruth Miller (Łchavaya K’isen), Storytelling Fellow at The Natural History Museum
Organized by the Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University

Register to attend this talk via Zoom

What is the meaning of a canoe, a fish camp, a dam? What is the significance of a salmon, to a development corporation, or to a peoples whose millennia old culture has revolved around that relative? The Natural History Museum (nonprofit) is launching a powerful visual narrative project, bringing together stories of Bristol Bay, the Salish Sea, the Klamath River and the Snake River. United by their resistance to development projects that threaten their cultural preservation and subsistence food systems, the Yupik, Alutiiq and Dena’ina peoples of Bristol Bay, the Lummi Nation, the Yurok Tribe and the Nez Perce Tribe enter into a regional dialogue that unsettles Western conceptions of land, food, and object-hood.

Through leadership of community members, the emergent digital storytelling and interactive journalism project focuses on four Native-led salmon struggles, as Native relationship to land is mobilized as opposition to extraction, and the storytelling power of cultural objects reestablishes cross-regional narratives of reciprocity and intergenerational care. This reveals both similar and diverse techniques of subversion and victories of sovereignty by these groups, and opens the potential for future transnational collaboration. Through this work, we see great opportunity for network building and collective emergence as Indigenous groups across the Pacific Northwest discursively and psychically reclaim their lands, cultures, and identities.

Ruth (Łchavaya K’isen) is a Dena’ina Athabaskan and Ashkenazi Russian Jewish woman, raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She is a member of the Curyung Tribe from the Lake Iliamna region, and also has roots in Bristol Bay. She is a recent graduate from Brown University, built on occupied Wampanoag and Narragansett lands, & received a BA in Critical Development Studies with a focus on Indigenous resistance & liberation. She has worked many years towards Indigenous rights advocacy and climate justice. While she started in her homelands, working with her local tribal organizations against devastating development projects, her work now includes international advocacy, including attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Youth Climate Summit, and COP25 in Madrid, Spain. She is now the Climate Justice Organizer for Native Movement, a matriarchal grassroots Indigenous organization that fights for the rights of Indigenous peoples, our lands and waters, and justice for our ancestors and descendants. Ruth additionally supports Native Peoples Action on MMIWG advocacy and Alaska Youth for Environmental Action to support youth empowerment, and The Natural History Museum on an emergent salmon storytelling project, linking the Indigenous-led water defense of Bristol Bay with the Klamath River, the Salish Sea, and the Lower Snake River. She is also a founding member of the Fireweed Collective, a catalyst to gather politically minded youth across Alaska and build power. Her most recent project was developing Always Indigenous Media, a social media based program that covers, commentates, and interprets high level conversations and events affecting our Indigenous communities. She is a daughter, a granddaughter, an aunty, a language learner, a traditional beadworker, and a fisherwomxn.