Do you feel called to get off your fanny and DO SOMETHING for the greater good? I love Water (our most precious life-giving resource). I’ve collaborated on many projects devoted to water protection and conservation as well as climate. A highlight: producing and performing with the art-based project "Salmon is Life" for United Nations' COP21 (site of the infamous Paris Climate Accord Agreement).
Documenting Salmon Is Life for YES Magazine
I was fortunate to travel to Paris with Salmon is Life, an arts-based environmental project developed for the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015. Our intention was to bring beauty and love of the natural world to the streets of Paris, a city that was under lockdown after the terrorist attack on citizens. We represented Northwest salmon, a critical 'keystone' species, and supported indigenous-led actions throughout the city. Our team included Denise Henrikson, Paul Cheoketen Wagner, Lisa Marcus, Debra D’Angelo, Nicole Brown, Cathy Ballew, Jill McIntyre and videographer Jeff Dundicliff. It was an honor to photograph our actions and write Paris Diary entries, published by YES Magazine.
Paris Diaries, Dec. 5, 2015
Today, the #SalmonIsLife project took flight! Our vision – held for months of community art-making to create 300 silk batik fish, while raising funds – was finally realized. The reality of bringing love and hope to the people of this city and COP21 visitors exceeded our dreams.
The illuminated salmon flew in a small school of 25 fish for the closing of the Rights of Nature International Tribunal, where a global alliance of peoples are creating a new legal platform to represent nature itself. Paul Cheoketen Wagner’s haunting flute and the luminous, dancing salmon drew in nearly everyone who passed by. Many paused for a long while, smiling. Many appeared to be emotionally impacted. The children’s eyes lit up and we gave them salmon to fly with us.
Next, the salmon made a long city trek to Place2B, a watering hole and point of connection for COP21 bloggers, media, NGOs, etc. Today, the focus was on the ocean, so we were invited to perform and share the message of the salmon. Paul Cheoketen Wagner and Lummi Elder Cathy Ballew shared a taste of their indigenous wisdom and respectful, graceful ways. They told stories of the salmon, giving thanks to the city of Paris and to all who are working for the Earth. Paul told us the Salish word for salmon means “hard-working people.”
We are the hard-working people, too. It’s physically tiring to carry our gear, go for long periods without food, rest, and bathroom breaks, and to walk with uncertainty in this unfamiliar place. Yet it’s an act of love. Our plans are evolving in the moment. We are seeing what is calling us and following that call. Every moment is a gift, a surprise that is unfolding right in front of us.
Paris Diaries: Salmon is Life privileged to join indigenous peoples from all over the globe
Dec. 6, 2016: On a historic voyage on the Seine, we met many beautiful peoples who gathered for ceremony, and to celebrate their connectedness and unity with songs and drum. We felt so welcomed, and very honored – to bring the salmon delegation, representing the natural world.
#PaddleToParis was a historic moment, proclaiming the first bioregional marine sanctuary in the world: Santuario Embera-Wounaan ZEE in Central America. The proclamation states: Restore natural habitat and animals across our bioregion to more than 51% of historic levels, as soon as possible.
We watched delegates sign a canoe paddle, affirming the proclamation. And then the man from — he offered the paddle to us. We were stunned. What an honor, to be included! With tears in our eyes, each of us on the Salmon team signed the paddle. We all had a feeling of being part of something much bigger than us – something momentous, real and powerful.
We were feted with beautiful Parisian food and incredible conversation. We then traveled by bus and train with the indigenous peoples to their ceremony at a castle in Millemont, where the native peoples have gathered for the last week.
This ceremony was extremely powerful, especially as the elder women were called in to support a woman whose family members were killed this week, while she was in Paris. Her people are defending the forest in Peru. Her grief was palpable. The healing offered by the elder women was deep, inclusive, and respectful. We were all affected.
The pinnacle of the evening was a call to action: each of us agreed to uphold Mother Earth, to not be deterred, to use all our strength and heart to support the indigenous peoples’ of the world leadership.