Saving Indigenous subsistence lifeways

On today's weekend edition of Indian Country Today we'll hear about casinos, rivers and farming.
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Alyssa Macy talks about salmon on the brink of extinction and what that means for rivers and tribal people.

Plus Hope Flanagan from Dream of Wild Health tells us about Sally Auger's work in Minnesota.

And correspondent Carina Dominguez shows the impact the virus is having on casinos and the communities they fund. 

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • Deb Haaland is set to speak at the United Nations on Monday. 
  • Dante Desiderio is taking the helm at the National Congress of American Indians. 
  • College enrollment for students is down due to COVID-19.
  • California tribes are at odds with a state university over its reluctance to respect a sacred site. 
  • A sunken warship commanded by a Cherokee and Muscogee Creek citizen is finally found.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Alyssa Macy

Alyssa Macy, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

A report released today names the top 10 endangered rivers. Number One is the Snake River. Once the largest salmon producer in the Columbia River Basin, today its salmon runs are at the brink of extinction. The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Northwest tribes that depend on the fish for their cultures and identities. Alyssa Macy breaks this down for us. From the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, she is the CEO of Washington Environmental Council. Alyssa Macy joins the show to talk about how salmon are on the brink of extinction and what that means for tribal people. 

Alyssa Macy:

"American Rivers does a report annually where they look at endangered rivers across the country. And there's a couple of factors that they're taken into account. One is the magnitude of the threat. The second is a significance of the river to the people and to nature. And the third piece that they look at as a critical decision point. So the Snake river has landed as the number one most endangered river on this report for the fact that the salmon runs in the lower snake river are getting close to extinction."

"We know as Native peoples here in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the entire West coast region, like salmon is not just important to the tribes along the Columbia river and the Snake river. So important to tribes throughout this entire region, all the way up to Alaska, all the way down to California as part of our identity, as part of our subsistence. And certainly fishing is a part of our treaty rights that we have secured hundreds of years ago."

"So this river has been named because of the threat of extinction because of its significance to tribal people, to the economy, to the region. And also the fact that we have an opportunity right now here in front of us to take bold action to address what the Snake river is facing right now. There are four dams on the lower Snake river. What they have done by damming up the river is to basically prevent the free flow of water in the river. Salmon need to go up river to spawn. They need to be able to travel."

Hope Flanagan, Seneca

Hope Flanagan, Seneca

Dream of Wild Health is honoring its founder this spring, Sally Auger. Joining us today is Hope Flanagan. She’s Seneca, and the Community Outreach and Cultural Teacher at Dream of Wild Health -- a nonprofit dedicated to restoring health and well-being in the Native community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods, medicines, and lifeways.

Hope Flanagan:

"Sally was a real go-getter and helped so many people along the way. Just now I was talking to a friend who was mentioning about Sally helping with Louise Erdrich was getting her bookstore going. And when she, Sally, it started up the the two programs that I feel like really got the ball rolling, where she was helping people who came out of prison, like men who were coming out of prison that needed a place to get their feet on the ground. And then she also started a domestic abuse shelter for native people."

"These were for Native people, and she could see when people had their fingers in the ground when they were re-establishing that connection to mother earth, that there was a healing that happened with that. So Sally was so motivated to go forward and look for land, to develop this farm. So people could reestablish that connection because she could see that that was a healing piece to all this. So through her many, many different endeavors that she did to support the community, she saw the need for getting those foods to our young ones, kind of re-establishing the connection to our traditional tribal foods to look at food sovereignty, because a lot of our tribes still struggle with access to clean, good, healthy food, and that she was re-establishing that connection with the tribal ways and food. So she did quite an amazing amount of work in that area."

"We have this saying that we raise children and we raise seeds. Well, I should actually say we raise leaders and we raise seeds. So we have young people come out from the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. We drive vans up there to our farm at Dream of Wild Health and it's in Hugo, Minnesota. And we grow out seeds, traditional tribal seeds. We have a pollinator meadow, a native orchard. We have an area where we grow out vegetables and foods that we can bring back into the Native communities. And like I said, we're trying to rematriate some of those seeds."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is vice president of broadcasting for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for Indian Country Today. CarinaDominguez@indiancountrytoday.com, Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7

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