Spirit of the Waters Totem Journey tours the Pacific Northwest

Published 5/11/2022  |  Idaho Rivers United

The Orca totem is touring throughout the Northwest. Photo by Kurt Russo

FORT HALL, IDAHO – A traveling Totem Pole is circulating around various stops in the Pacific Northwest this May through an Indigenous led effort to raise awareness for the movement to remove the Snake River dams and restore the salmon runs to health. The campaign also aims to aid their relatives, the Southern Resident Killer Whales (Skali’Chelh) that depend on salmon for survival.

The Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey’s mission is “to inspire, inform, and engage Pacific Northwest communities through intergenerational voices, ceremony, art and science, spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and cross-cultural collaboration.”

Several non-profit environmental organizations from the region are partnering in support of Spirit of the Waters and other tribes for the journey, and will attend events throughout the tour.

“Indigenous communities in Idaho have always been at the forefront of environmental action,” said Lisa Young, Director of the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This event will be an incredible way to showcase the decades of leadership from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe – in collaboration with numerous tribes from across the Northwest – to save salmon from the brink of extinction and restore the ecosystems and cultures that have been deeply impacted by the species’ decline.  We are so grateful to be able to support this effort.”

A 2021 resolution of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians stated “…these [Lower Snake River] dams and others were built through the use and destruction of lands, rivers and fisheries we have lived with for millennia.”

“I am constantly inspired for the deep reverence that all of the Salmon-people have for these fish and their relationship to our water. While IRU works diligently to protect and restore these critical resources, our Tribal partners have stewarded these lands for centuries, hold these fish as sacred, and embody the nature of our work. We are proud to help amplify the voices of the Tribes and support to shift the paradigm of river conservation back to the inclusion of Indigenous values, beliefs, and practices,” said Nic Nelson executive director of Idaho Rivers United.

“The work of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes has saved sockeye from extinction, but breaching the lower Snake River dams is necessary to restore them to abundance. The time is now for comprehensive solutions that address salmon, orcas, and Tribal justice,” said Justin Hayes, the executive director of Idaho Conservation League.

Indigenous artists from the House of Tears Carvers of Lummi Nation carved the totem pole that will be transported along the Snake River to the Columbia to the Salish Sea. The Journey will start in Bellingham, WA and make stops for events in cities and tribal communities across Washington, northern Oregon, and western Idaho, before returning to where it began.

“Conservation, clean energy and fishing advocates are proud to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities in the Northwest to support this Totem Pole Journey and join their urgent call to restore health to the Snake River, its salmon, the orcas that depend upon them – and to tribal and non-tribal communities alike,” said Joseph Bogaard, executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition.

For more information on the journey, visit their website at www.spiritofthewaters.org or get more information about local events on their Facebook event page here.

Courtesy of Spirit of the Waters, 2022.

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