At the Youth Salmon Celebration and Call to Action in late September, salmon advocates of all ages gathered to honor and uplift youth voices on the banks of the Snake River in Lewiston, ID.
Snake River youth organizers and Tribal youth from across the Pacific Northwest shared their testimony and called on the crowd to mobilize around restoring salmon by removing the four lower Snake River dams. Followed by the exceptional youth speakers, Nez Perce Tribal elder Lucii Simpson led a water salmon ceremony on the shore giving each participant a ribbon bracelet as a visual reminder of the unity required across geographic, age, racial, and ideological barriers essential to restoring salmon and steelhead to abundance in the Snake River basin.
Northwest Artists Against Extinction partner Eileen Klatt continued the call for unity through a community mural art installation. Participants at the Youth Salmon Celebration laid the foundation for this large collaborative traveling mural project, United for Salmon.
Strewn across several picnic tables laid four 4’ h x 2’ w panels with life-sized outlines of salmon drawn by naturalist artist Eileen Klatt. Attendees jumped in without hesitation to paint a grid section and bring their chosen salmon to life. “I was impressed by the entire group’s absolute focus on painting salmon. Following a brief introduction and minimal instructions, everyone got to work. The quiet hum of engaged group creativity settled over us as colorful salmon emerged from the white background like magic” said NWAAE partner, Klatt.
Creative visions ranged from hyper realistic to abstract, some even included calls to action. The free reign of participants created a visually engaging mural representing the diversity of relationships to Snake River salmon.
This project will continue to grow at NWAAE events across the Pacific Northwest. “We have visions of this colorful, collaborative artist representation of healthy ecosystems, abundant salmon and regional potential growing to be 60’, 100’, 350’ long!” said NWAAE partner, Britt Freda. “It can happen with the creative, hopeful hands and hearts of the diverse population of people who love and rely on salmon in our region.”
The artistic activism melded seamlessly with the call to action by the Confederated Tribe of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Youth Leadership Council. The CTUIR Youth Leadership Council urged participants to sign their petition asking President Biden to restore salmon and steelhead populations by removing the four lower Snake River dams.
The petition, written by several dozen Northwest Tribal youth, calls on President Biden to honor federal commitments and take action to save salmon: “If these dams aren’t removed soon, Snake River salmon will go extinct. [..] Salmon aren’t just a food, they are part of our way of life. In our language we are ‘Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum’ (salmon people). ‘Wy-kan-ish’ (salmon) are important for our sacred life renewal ceremonies, our daily food, and for our economy.”
The CTUIR Youth Leadership Council’s goal is to accumulate 25,000 signatures before delivering the petition to President Biden - they are less than 1,000 signatures away from accomplishing this goal. You can support them by signing the petition today.
“The mural is a perfect metaphor for the salmon recovery work by Tribes, activists, politicians, and other resolute individuals and organizations. Created in a spirit of creativity and love for salmon and all things salmon, it embodies the collaboration, cooperation, dedication, and vision necessary to save our salmon.” - Eileen Klatt
Pictures provided by Megan Mack, NPTE, and Eileen Klatt, NWAAE.