KURT RUSSO on The People Under the Sea ⌠ENCORE⌡ /127

Photo John Forde and Jennifer Steven. New baby alongside its mother, J31, and several other females in the pod / June 2019.

Photo John Forde and Jennifer Steven. New baby alongside its mother, J31, and several other females in the pod / June 2019.

Last summer, the world watched as mother Orca, Tahlequah, carried her dead calf on a “tour of grief” for more than 1,000 miles over a 17-day period. The Lummi Nation of the Salish Sea believes that Tahlequah’s display of her dead offspring was an intentional act —not only an act of grieving, but intended to stir an empathetic reaction from those who live above the water. This moment continues to be a profound reminder that we share our place and experience with other beings that bear memory, whose capacity for love and loss mirror our own. It also highlights the uncertainty of the Southern Resident Orca's livelihood, and that of our entire planetary community, if we continue to act with reckless abandon. 

The Salish Sea is showing us that one world that we are living in is in a deep crisis and the people that live above the water have to understand: they don’t own this place... They were gifted it. Until that’s understood we’ll see more dead calves.
— Kurt Russo / Episode 127

In this week’s encore episode, we step back into conversation with Kurt Russo who has worked on environmental issues, land preservation, and treaty rights with The Lummi Nation of the Salish Sea for 40 years. He is also the Executive Director of The Foundation for Indigenous Medicine and the former Director of The Native American Land Conservancy. He holds a BS and MS in Forestry and a Ph.D. in History. Kurt shares with us the Lummi word “Elchnexwtex,” which refers to a time when all life forms were one — when the “black fish,” Orcas, and the “young ones,” Humans, were one. The black fish, "qwe 'lhol mechen,” are known as the people under the sea.

Amidst ongoing colonial violence and resource extraction like the recent approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, The Lummi Nation continues to follow their sacred duty to protect and defend the sanctity of the lands, waters, and communities of the Salish Sea. This episode is a call to the human heart. The impassioned Kurt Russo, speaking on behalf of the qwe 'lhol mechen, is one that will imprint itself on your memory as a cold hard look into the mirror of humanity.

♫ Music by Monplaisir , Amoeba


+ Write to Miami Seaquarium (4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149) or call at 305-361-5705 and urge Andrew Hertz, President and General Manager of the Seaquarium, to release and repatriate Tokitae to her native waters. 

+ Call Governor Jay Inslee at 360-902-4111 and the US Army Corps of Engineers at 202-761-0000 to insist they take action to breach the Lower Snake River Dams, which inhibit millions of salmon from spawning and re-populating the Salish Sea every year. 

+ On a personal note, consider not buying, ordering, or eating Chinook salmon, the main food source of Southern Resident orcas.


+ To support Kurt Russo’s work and the Lummi Nation’s Salish Sea campaign, visit the Sacred Sea at https://sacredsea.org/

+ For additional information, read Lummi Nation Chairman Jay Julius’s op-ed: https://www.bellinghamherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article210826344.html

+ Watch the trailer for a feature-length documentary film that is currently in production about the story of Tokitae: https://vimeo.com/266726774

About Our Podcast…

At For The Wild, we discuss the critical ideas of our time and parlay them into action for the defense and regeneration of natural communities. Key topics include the rediscovery of wild nature, ecological renewal and resistance, and healing from the trauma of individualistic society. We will travel deep into ancient forests, align with the struggles and ways of Earth-based people, and rekindle the mysteries of intuition. We will join today’s brightest visionaries in this momentous work of reimagining a world where humanity can find its way back into the web of life.

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