Totem Pole Journey will make a stop on the UO campus

The Tokitae Totem Pole in Seattle

The Totem Pole Journey, an Indigenous-led environmental project, begins its tour with a series of events co-sponsored by the Environment Initiative and the Center for Environmental Futures.

Led by members of the Lummi Nation and the House of Tears Carvers, the Totem Pole Journey is a Pacific Northwest community experience that engages participants through ceremony, art, science, ancestral knowledge and cross-cultural collaboration.

This year’s events, called “Se’Si’Le Snake River to the Salish Sea — Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey to a Solution,” and related art, media and events are the latest in a dozen such journeys over the past 20 years. The first journey started with a successful campaign to oppose fossil fuel projects in the region. 2022 events are in support of the removal of the Snake River dams and the restoration of the river’s salmon runs, which is important to the southern resident killer whaleshales community, known as Skali’Chelh in the Lummi language. 

“The 2022 journey builds upon, strengthens and reaffirms the growing Indigenous-led environmental movement across the Pacific Northwest,” said Kurt Russo, an event organizer with the Se’Si’Le. “The totem pole journey will engage the intellect, emotion and imagination through an inspiring mix of generational voices and collective vision.”

Events at the University of Oregon start May 5 and last through May 7:

  • Science in Ceremony Symposium: 2-4 p.m. May 5 in the Erb Memorial Union Gumwood Room.
  • Art, Activism, and Ceremony: a lunchtime presentation from noon-1:30 p.m. (box lunches provided) on May 6 in the EMU ballroom.
  • “Whale People and Totem Pole” exhibit and IMAX-style film screenings: 8-10 p.m. May 6 and 7, EMU Green.

Amplifying Indigenous voices in the conversation about environmental justice is a guiding principle of the Environment Initiative, which seeks to work directly with and within diverse communities.

“I am so pleased to play a role in supporting this amazing event that allows the UO community to benefit from the expertise of Lummi elders and culture producers,” said Adell Amos, executive director of the Environment Initiative. “The Environment Initiative is deeply committed to tribal sovereignty and fostering reciprocal relationships that are responsive to the needs of tribal nations.”

The Environment Initiative and the Center for Environmental Futures are co-sponsors of the events on campus, along with several other groups and departments, including the Office of Sustainability, Department of Landscape Architecture, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Department of History, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Department of Philosophy. Student-led partners include the Student Sustainability Center, the Native American Student Union, and the UO Many Nations Longhouse.

For more information about events, exhibits and presentations, check the Center for Environmental Futures website.

By Emmily Bristol, Office of the Provost