A meeting is being held in Sitka this week (Oct 28-30) to explore a new way of thinking around communities, resources, development — and even government.
It’s called ‘Salmon Nation,’ and a central tenet is that coastal communities in Alaska, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest have connections that transcend borders.
Salmon Nation is holding a public meeting in Sitka 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 28, at the Odess Theater.
Film: Well my name is Larry Jorgenson, I’m a resident of Bella Bella…
This is an excerpt from a film made by Salmon Nation, explaining the core idea. When you look at the environment and culture of the region, the political borders start to seem a bit contrived.
Film continues: …and relate their lives somehow to all the wonderful things salmon can do, and somehow nurture your soul.
Ian Gill is a writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a former CEO of Ecotrust in the US, Canada, and Australia. He’s one of four individuals behind Salmon Nation, an effort to initiate systemic change in the way communities function from the Sacramento River in California, to the Yukon River in Alaska.
National governments, he believes, have dropped the ball.
“The systems that currently govern how we live and how we divide and conquer — mostly ourselves — are failing us,” he said. “We’re seeing a failure of policy from Washington DC and from Ottowa — which affects me as someone who lives in Canada. Those systems, especially when it comes to something like climate change our manifestly failing our nations, but it’s especially acute when you get out to the edges on the West Coast here. Almost none of what happens ‘back there’ makes any sense to us ‘here.’”
Gill is not promoting political revolution. Rather, Salmon Nation is an attempt to define a bioregion, and re-imagine the economy and environment in a way that celebrates and harnesses the resources of the region, rather than, well, trashes them.
“We’re still obsessed with this model of extracting resources and often getting a very low value for them as a way to pay for our essential public services,” Gill said. “And we’re sort of in this broken model that you have to destroy everything around you to hang on to a few human services and everything else — and that way lies ruin, we’re beginning to see that.”
About 30 people will be arriving in Sitka for the inaugural meeting of Salmon Nation. It’s being held at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp — no coincidence, as camp director Roger Schmidt has been articulating themes around the role of the arts in our lives, that are echoed in the principle of Salmon Nation.
Schmidt even appears briefly in the video.
Schmidt in Salmon Nation film: …And so I love feeling like my job is to keep possibility alive and as broad as possible as long as we can with people, so that kids will stay believing that things are possible…
Ian Gill stresses that Salmon Nation is not about undoing progress, or rolling back the clock. In fact, Salmon Nation wants to move beyond pilot projects and bring serious capital and investment to work that is already being done in the spirit of Salmon Nation, if not in name.
“We’re not interested in stopping things,” said Gill. “We’re interested in saying ‘Okay, why doesn’t capital, why doesn’t politics, why doesn’t community privilege people and activities that are actually making positive regenerative contributions to the way we live our lives, and the way we derive joy and satisfaction in our communities?’”
And Gill and his associates believe that rural and indigenous “edge” communities are best-positioned for the development and demonstration of this new approach to living — which is why this first-ever gathering of Salmon Nation is in Sitka.
KCAW’s Erin Fulton contributed to this story.