Tag Archives: indigenous peoples

Highline Indigenous Voices Celebration Features Art, Education, Stories

by Patheresa Wells


Highline Public Schools Native Education Program will host an Indigenous Voices Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 27, 1–7 p.m., highlighting and honoring the work done by Indigenous earth/water protectors and First Nations food sovereignty leaders. The event will include viewings of two films, AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock and GATHER, as well as discussion about issues of importance to Indigenous communities — including the sacred work of water and land protectors — and sharings from Highline Native Education

Highline’s Native Education Program is a legacy program established in 1974 with the passing of the Indian Education Act. The program was started as a way to address the culturally related needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. Since its inception, the program has had its own history of growth, but in 2013 it was relaunched with, as program manager Sara Ortiz says, a desire to be “visionary in our approach to native or Indian education … to include as many artists, as many culture keepers, scholars, elders, media makers, [and] language teachers [as possible].”

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Shape Our Water: Pah-tu Pitt

by Ben Adlin

Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low-power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Pah-tu Pitt, a small-business owner of Native Kut, course instructor at the University of Washington, and member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.


When smoke from wildfires turned skies in the Pacific Northwest an otherworldly orange last summer, many of the region’s longest residents knew that more than climate change was to blame. Pah-tu Pitt, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, recognized that the fires also symbolized a rejection of Indigenous wisdom of how to care for the land.

“We really saw, on a large scale, what removing traditional fire practices from landscapes can lead to,” Pitt told the Shape Our Water project. Prevailing forest management practices [particularly in dry landscapes] relied on the idea that minor fires should be extinguished before they could spread and grow, while Pitt’s tribe had long understood that the smaller fires actually cleared underbrush — reducing the likelihood of larger blazes.

“My tribe has been a leader in using fires to reduce fuels within the system, to make it so fires tend to not be so catastrophic,” Pitt explained. Pitt, who currently lives in Seattle, expressed a sense of disconnect when she reflected on the many ways tribal lands benefit from traditional fire practices and how devastating wildfires have now become to their ecology and regional air quality.

The observation underscored Pitt’s belief in the need for Western institutions to better respect and incorporate the knowledge embodied in traditional place-based practices. As an educator and small business owner who has a background in environmental science, she now works to amplify the voices and perspectives of underrepresented groups. 

“Just because you don’t see yourself reflected in the field doesn’t mean that your people didn’t do science,” she said. “White supremacy just plays such a large role in excluding and dismissing our ideas. I don’t think that there are sustainable futures without us being able to reclaim those spaces.”

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Indigenous Voices Across the Americas

by Josie Jensen and Jesús Zamora

The Seattle Globalist was a daily online publication that covered the connections between local and global issues in Seattle. The Emerald is keeping alive its legacy of highlighting our city’s diverse voices by regularly publishing and re-publishing stories aligned with the Globalist‘s mission. 


Indigenous peoples around the world have been fighting to protect their ancestral lands, languages, and cultures from being erased by colonialism for generations.

In Seattle, on the unceded territory of the Duwamish, Suquamish, and Tulalip people, there are countless movements for Indigenous liberation past and present. These range from the fish wars of the 1960s and ’70s to the Duwamish fight for federal recognition to movements such as Idle No More and 350 Tacoma that work to protect Indigenous lands from environmental degradation to movements calling for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women to organizations working to uplift Indigenous artists and preserve Indigenous culture such as the Duwamish Longhouse, Yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective, and more. 

Similar work is being done by Indigenous people around the world. I got to witness these similarities in a recent trip to Ecuador where I participated in a program organized by Amigos de Las Americas centering Indigenous rights and food justice.

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Seedcast: Storytelling Is Guardianship

by Tracy Rector

Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.


Many of us have known for quite a while that climate change, accelerated by human decisions and behaviors, is not only real but a direct threat to life as we know it. While the findings of the IPCC report released in August of 2021 might not have been a surprise, that didn’t make them less alarming. The report inspired urgent conversations not only at planet-focused nonprofits like the one I work at, Nia Tero, but on a global scale and in individual homes: What can we do to heal the planet? What role can we play? Where are the solutions?

The good news is that human decisions and behaviors can also heal the planet, as evidenced by the land guardianship carried out by Indigenous peoples around the world in the form of tending to the land with fire, seed saving, or not taking more than you need. Indigenous land stewardship shows us not only the ways of the past and present but also the ways of the future. As an extension of that work, Indigenous storytelling links a millennium of knowledge with current day action. This is why Indigenous storytelling is an integral part of climate justice today.

Nia Tero Storytelling Fellow Jonathan Luna (Huila) connects Indigenous land sovereignty and narrative sovereignty in this way: “As part of creating the world, a place with more justice and liberation for all, historically oppressed and marginalized people, which include Indigenous peoples, need to create our own narratives regarding our lived experiences, be it historical or contemporary. The role of storytelling in these struggles, in all of its multiple forms and media, is fundamental and necessary; there are no imitations, fast-forwards, or shortcuts. The narratives of the people who dedicate their lives on the frontlines of defending the most biodiverse, water-rich yet fragile ecosystems that contribute to help sustain the world’s climate are the stories that policymakers need to be seeing and hearing.” 

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OPINION: Every Native Child Matters in Seattle Too

by Caro Johnson and Millie Kennedy


On Saturday, July 17, participants in Seattle’s “Every Child Matters — Seattle Rally and March” gathered at Cal Anderson Park. The crowd stood, sat, drummed, and mourned in solidarity with the First Nations tribes who found 160 children on July 12, buried at Penelakut Island Residential School in British Columbia and in remembrance of the nine children’s remains, recovered from the Carlisle Boarding School in Pennsylvania, returning to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. 

The assimilative policy in Canada and the United States of removing children from their parents is an ongoing form of genocide. From the 1860s until the late 20th century, over 300 American Indian residential schools were a government-funded and church-run national program to “civilize” Native children by coercing them into schools and, once there, forbidding them to speak their languages or learn their traditions. Both Catholic and Protestant churches forced the children to assimilate to Anglo-American culture through brutal means, leaving many maimed for life physically and psychologically. Sexual abuse was common, and manual labor was compulsory for even the youngest children. Thousands of Native children died by suicide, hunger, and abuse at these boarding schools. 

Prior to the residential and boarding school policies, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans died by germ warfare through the intentional infection of smallpox. This experience of genocide is so universal for Turtle Island’s Native people that individual members of various American Indian, Alaska Native, and First Nation tribes from near and far were in attendance at the July march in Seattle as well as many non-Native allies seeking justice and solidarity. 

At the Seattle Every Child Matters Rally, marchers carefully placed babies’ and children’s shoes outside at St. James Cathedral, directly across from the regional Catholic headquarters Archdiocese of Seattle, to symbolize the dead. 

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Why Don’t We See More People of Color on the Trails of Washington State?

by Caroline Guzman


A friend from India took me to Snow Lake last year. At Snow Lake, there are certain birds so accustomed to humans they will land on your hand or arms for bird seed. Having that connection with the birds made me realize I should stop being anxious about a future I cannot control and start living in the present as wild animals do to enjoy such unprecedented moments. On our way back, my friend and I noticed there were not many People of Color on the trail and we discussed how lovely it would’ve been for our families to experience what we did. 

Being surrounded by the Puget Sound, breathtaking landscapes, mountains, and of course, our iconic active volcano Mount Rainier have led Seattle to be named one of “The World’s Greatest Places of 2021” by TIME Magazine. The Washington Office of Financial Management reported that Washington State added 109,800 people throughout 2019 — a 1.5% increase. But many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) residents have not gotten the opportunity to see and enjoy the beautiful wilderness that Washington State offers. 

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‘Thriving Peoples, Thriving Places’: Pop Art Campaign Honors the Contributions of Indigenous Women to Global Biodiversity

by Nia Tero

(This article originally appeared on Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


We are in a critical moment. In the midst of an ongoing global pandemic that is leaving no family untouched, compounded by increasingly extreme weather events linked to climate change, a unique global art project is shining a light on voices essential to the ecological solutions and collective healing we seek: Indigenous women.

“Thriving Peoples, Thriving Places” is a collaboration between two Seattle-based not-for-profit organizations — Indigenous-focused Nia Tero and design lab Amplifier — launching on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is Aug. 9. The global exhibit includes six original portraits commissioned from Washington, D.C.-based artist and illustrator Tracie Ching. The art will be available digitally as well as at public art events in cities, including Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York City, São Paulo, and London. The project celebrates Indigenous women who have acted as stewards of biodiversity across Earth and prompts action amongst an engaged global audience.

The nine Indigenous women at the center of this project are robust examples of real action we can take to strive for the health and future of the planet. They are from communities spanning the globe, from the Philippines and New Zealand, to the Brazilian Amazon to Scandinavia, to the global north, embodying Indigenous experience while carrying generational knowledge and inherited dedication:

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Seedcast: Getting Back to the Dirt

by Edgar Franks

Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.


I grew up in the 1980s in Texas in a family of migrant farmworkers. We spent half of the year in Texas; the other half of the year we lived in Washington State. When I was about 6 or 7, my mom settled in Skagit County, and I’ve been here pretty much ever since then. At age 10, I joined my family members at work. I grew up in the fields and stayed there for a decade and a half.

These days I spend most of my time serving as the political director for an independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por La Justicia (FUJ). While most people associate unions with strikes, work stoppages, and picket lines, my day-to-day job at FUJ is based in quieter activities. I mostly talk one-on-one with members of the union, whom I consider to be my bosses, prioritizing my tasks based on what they need. I help with work-related problems but also rent-related or immigration-related issues. Care for our members extends past the fields and into the lives of their families.

In June, for example, we focused on getting ready for berry harvesting season — strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry — going out to sites of employment and letting workers know about their rights. When it’s safe to travel, I also represent the union across the state and country as well as around the world, coordinating initiatives with partners then reporting back to our executive committee and our workers. I enjoy my work and the people I get to work for. I’m lucky.

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yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective is Here to Lift the Sky and Make a Space for Indigenous Art

by Kamna Shastri


There is a Coast Salish story about a number of neighboring villages, each speaking a different language but sharing the same land. While they did not understand one another, they had a shared challenge: When the Creator had made the world, he had left the sky a little too low. The village communities realized that though they spoke different languages, they had a shared word that could help them change the situation.

yəhaw̓ — a Lushootseed word meaning “to proceed” or “move forward.” Together they called out synchronously. Each time the word escaped their lips, a collective sound powerful and potent, the sky moved up just a little more.

This is the story behind yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective, a newly birthed nonprofit which became a larger movement after beginning as a one-time art show at King Street Station in 2019.

“We felt like that was a really beautiful story in terms of art and the power of art and culture to unite communities and become a source of shared empowerment,” said Asia Tail, one of the collective’s three founders.

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Seedcast: You Can’t Complete the Circle Without Us

by Raven Two Feathers in collaboration with Julie Keck

Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.


June is commonly recognized in the United States as Pride Month, a tight 30 days during which LGBTQIA+ folks, whom for brevity I’ll refer to as queer in this piece, are typically expected to embrace being out and proud. Before pandemic times, parades and throbbing beats and feather boas were abundant; corporations are still leaning hard on adding rainbow filters to their logos. However, not as many people know June is also Indigenous History Month in Canada which has bled into the U.S. through proximity and because the same genocidal tactics are happening on both sides of the border. This month lies at the intersection of queerness and Indigeneity, which is especially lovely, because so do many of my loved ones, including yours truly. 

Osiyo, Sgeno, Nya:wëh sgë:nö’, Haa marúawe, ʔi, syaʔyaʔ. Hello, my name is Raven Two Feathers; I’m Cherokee, Seneca, Cayuga, and Comanche. I live on Coast Salish territory, commonly known as Seattle. I am from Pueblo, Diné, and Apache territory (Albuquerque, New Mexico). I’m an Emmy-award winning creator with a B.F.A. in film production, and most pertinent, I’m Two Spirit and trans masculine. No need to worry if this is the first time learning the term Two Spirit: I wrote a whole comic about my journey toward better understanding myself called Qualifications of Being. It includes a primer on what it means to be Two Spirit on page 25. You can read it here for free!

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