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Contemporary Native Activism and Culture in the Northwest

Native leaders, artists, poets, musicians, storytellers, political activists (usually these identities overlap and intersect) ever more often share their long perspective on our interdependency with the natural world, and the urgency to resist fossil fuel extraction as well as other climate destroying habits.

In 2015, Kayactivists initially trained by the Backbone Campaign of Vashon Island, joined Native musicians, poets and dancers to protest Shell’s Polar Pioneer, as it was being refurbished in our port.

“Break Free from Fossil Fuels,” a worldwide protest generated by in May 2016, focused in Washington State on the Anacortes Oil Refinery. The native tribes participated in large numbers with speakers, prayers, canoes paddled there from long distances by youth, and moving speeches by activists.

In the same year, Lummi put together an extensive collaboration of indigenous tribes to defeat the Cherry Point coal terminal. This summer activists led by Native groups stopped the Kinder Morgan plan to massively expand a pipeline in Vancouver BC. In Tacoma, the Puyallup Tribe has strongly resisted a giant Liquid Natural Gas facility right on their reservation.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous leading the Women’s March 2018. Image courtesy Susan Platt.

On another type of disaster, “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Washington” led the Women’s March in 2018. Sex trafficking, hate crimes, especially in the I-5 corridor and near casinos is on the rise. Seventy percent of perpetrators are non-native. Pending federal legislation, “Savannah’s Act,” is one initiative toward enabling prosecution: it would allow tribal access to federal crime databases.