The Big River

by Aja DeCoteau, OEC board member

My people, the Yakama, called it N’ch i wana, “the big river.” The Columbia River has been the lifeblood of all the cultures it touches. The salmon that swim its waters have shaped the culture of the newcomers to this region just as they shaped tribal cultures before them. Salmon are the icon of this place.

My roots run deep in this region—for thousands of years of my ancestors fished in its waters, gathered in its meadows, hunted its forests. That connection is a big part of who I am today. I feel a responsibility to make sure the tribal land ethic and sense of place are represented in conversations about our shared environment. That duty led me into a field that aims to protect our rivers and our salmon, and it led me to become a member of the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) and serve on its board. Will you join me in becoming a member of OEC today?

For tribal people, natural resources are synonymous with cultural resources. The tribes have been doing important work to protect our “First Foods”—water, deer, salmon, roots, and berries—and the environment upon which they depend. This work sustains not only tribal people and culture, but benefits all Oregonians. The environment connects us all. Environmental degradation, climate change, and polluted rivers are health risks for everyone—for salmon, for you, for me.

Tribal wisdom teaches that we should think of how our decisions will affect those seven generations in the future. That connection was made more tangible to me last year with the birth of my daughter, Isabella. Our actions today shape the land that our children, their children, and their children’s children will live in and hopefully enjoy.

Oregon Environmental Council is working to protect Oregon’s clean air and water for you and me, for Isabella, and for all the other children who will grow up in this beautiful state. I urge you to join OEC as a member today with your donation. They are a strong voice in what happens to Oregon’s environment, and part of that strength is their commitment to partnering and learning from the tribes and other underrepresented groups.

As Oregonians, we have common goals. Let’s work together to protect Oregon’s rivers, our children and our future. You can start by making a gift to OEC today.

Thank you,

Aja DeCoteau, OEC Board of Directors

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