A 16-foot-long killer whale totem pole is traveling through the upper Pacific Northwest. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, it’s to raise awareness of Indigenous peoples’ calls to remove four federal dams from the Snake River.
Through May, the carving is traveling through Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, including stops with Native American tribes. The pole recently spent this weekend at the University of Oregon. Jewell James is the Lummi master carver accompanying the pole. He says the dams interfere with salmon migration, which in turn disrupts the feeding cycles of killer whales.
“We’re hoping that we’re tapping into the mind and the conscience of the observers, that we’re awakening them to the need to stand up and give voice. Our congressman, they have the power to say, ‘Okay, remove the dams. Let’s take a vote.’ And the only way they’re gonna ever support that, is if the people speak out.”
Dam supporters – largely Republican lawmakers – argue the dams provide hydropower, as well as irrigation and river navigation.
The Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations and residential school survivors want Pope Francis to visit the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School, which is the last standing residential school in Saskatchewan. They’re calling on the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to arrange the visit when the pope is expected to travel to Canada in July. In April, Pope Francis apologized to Indigenous people in Canada for the Catholic Church’s role in the Indian residential school system.
First Nations leaders and residential school survivors gathered outside the school Monday where they held a press conference streamed live by APTN National News. Muskowekwan First Nation Chief Jamie Wolfe says the pope’s visit to their land to apologize would mean a great deal to many First Nations people.
“I wouldn’t want to watch something like that on TV, I’d want the person here in-person to have him come and say sorry for what you endured in the school.”
Vice Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations Dave Pratt was among a delegation of Indigenous people from Canada who met with the pope in Rome at the end of March and early April.
“I know we do have some work to do we’re going to continue to push for healing we know that a lot of healing has to take place for a lot of people. We know that there is no one of us that has not felt the impacts of residential schools. We all experienced terrible things within that system.”
Archbishop of Regina, Saskatchewan Donald Bolen says he supports the First Nation and school survivors, but says there are very few locations Pope Francis will be able to travel to because of health reasons.
“Pope Francis’ health is not good. I have just come from Rome and returned last night. I was at a public meeting where Pope Francis was and he is now in a wheelchair and hopefully not for too long, but he’s not in good health.”
According to the FSIN, Saskatchewan had 22 Indian residential schools that housed tens of thousands of First Nations children. Many students were physically, mentally, sexually and spiritually abused, and many did not make it home. Last year, an investigation found 35 unmarked graves at the Muskowekwan Indian Residential school.
On Wednesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will host a press conference to discuss her federal Indian boarding school initiative. An investigative report will be released. The press event will be held in Washington, D.C.
The Interior Department has extended the deadline for nominations for the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee for tribal leaders to have direct communication with Sec. Deb Haaland.
The extension for nominations will be accepted through May 16th.
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