Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series of updates from our 2009 Grant for Change grantees, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele. The Seattle-based documentary team will be sending us monthly updates from the field, as they work to build eight new stories for their long-term project, Facing Climate Change.
Earlier this week, Benj and I attended the Coast Salish Climate Change Summit in Tulalip, Washington. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the impacts of climate change on tribal lifeways in the Salish Sea ecosystem. Over two days, tribal leaders, scientists, legal experts and other participants explored topics ranging from regional impacts to legal rights and the role of traditional knowledge in climate change policy and science.
We were at this gathering because we’re collaborating with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community for one of our eight stories. The Swinomish, who helped to organize the event, recently completed a climate change impact assessment for their reservation and are currently working on a community action plan. The story we build together will explore what sea level rise means to people that have lived on the coast since time immemorial. How will it impact this small island nation culturally, economically and environmentally?
One of my favorite presentations from the first day of the Summit drew connections between climate change and diet. While the Umatilla Tribe of northeastern Oregon isn’t Coast Salish, they face many similar challenges. Their First Foods initiative uses the order in which traditional foods are brought to the table – water, fish, game, roots and berries – to guide the way natural resources are protected, restored and managed.
On the second day, conversations about being at the table expanded to the global level. The discussion turned to social justice, trans-boundary collaboration, and the importance of having a voice in local, national and international negotiations. These ideas echoed the intent behind the People’s World Conference on Climate Change last week in Bolivia, where more than 15,000 people from 120 countries gathered to respond to the failed talks in Copenhagen. “We need to talk about what is affecting our people,” said Chief Gibby Jacob of the Squamish Nation. “There is nobody who can tell our story like we can.”
—Sara Joy Steele