This blog was adapted from a piece authored by Chris Connolly, Field Representative for the Endangered Species Coalition.
Hundreds of people across the Northwest gathered on August 7th to demand Northwest members of Congress save salmon and the southern resident orca that rely on salmon. The coordinated events, called Rally for the River, took place in six cities in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Attendees got on the water in kayaks, canoes, floats, and SUPs to highlight the need for a free flowing Snake River. Scientists have said for years that restoring the Snake River by removing four deadly dams is the single most effective way to begin restoring salmon and orca populations.
Environment Washington and the Endangered Species Coalition, along with other partner organizations, hosted a Rally for the River in Seattle. More than 40 Northwesterners gathered on the shores of the Salish Sea, the ancient lands of the Duwamish Tribe, holding signs, banners, and giant inflatable orcas. Ken Workman, a member of the Duwamish and great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Seattle, thanked the gathering for their efforts.
Our speakers highlighted the struggles that salmon currently face in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Both the Columbia and Snake are currently at temperatures above the cold water threshold that salmon need to survive: 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Just recently a video showed Columbia sockeye with lesions on their body caused by warm water.
President of the board of directors of Orca Conservancy, Tamara Kelley, asked the rally for a moment of silence for the passing of K21 (Cappuccino) who is assumed to have passed away last week. While we cannot say for certain how he died, the lack of food (chinook salmon) for the southern resident orcas makes disease and death much more likely. Tamara spoke to the importance of abundant salmon for the southern residents, including from the Columbia and Snake Rivers which are key food sources.
The gathering then turned to the Salish Sea, home of the southern resident orca and once-abundant salmon populations. More than 20 people climbed into kayaks or stood on SUPs and slipped into the water for a short paddle. Those that stayed on land walked down the street to join up at Jack Block Park, where they watched the paddlers lift a banner on the water with the Seattle skyline in the background.
Nancy, another member of the Duwamish Tribe, welcomed the paddlers to shore in the traditional way. Andrew Grueter of the Duwamish Longhouse and Bill Moyer of Backbone Campaign closed out the rally with powerful words, pointing out the negative impacts humans have recently had on important waterways. Emphasizing the importance of following Indigenous leadership they each encouraged us to remember that the power of regular people coming together in bold, principled, and nonviolent action is exactly the force that transforms what seems an inevitable harm impossible, and makes the once politically impossible inevitable.
Check out some of the media coverage Rally for the River received across the region: