Coyotes Best Swimmers (Salmon!)

salmonsafeThe Farm became Salmon Safe Certified on February 14th! I am so excited to share this news with you all! I was also very happy that the Clark Conservation District had a grant and was able to fund this certificate and will hopefully be supplying a slick sign and maybe help us out with furthering our soil and water conservation efforts! I had spoken with a person who had worked on other Farm certifications and projects required to meet the conditions of Salmon Safe. They were disappointed and felt that the certification wasn’t doing as much as it could to support Salmon, other wildlife and their habitats. I was struck by the list of acceptable chemical fertilizers and pesticides approved for use if you show your awareness of wind drift or water flow on the day of application. On Good Rain Farm, on x̌ast sq̓it, we don’t apply anything that’s not OMRI approved and only then if absolutely necessary. I want you all to know that the Farm didn’t need to complete any additional projects to meet the requirements and that’s due to how I have always viewed the world around me, how I will always treat the world I breath in, live in. It’s a testament to our farming philosophy that our certification was easy peezy!

Those concerns about the Salmon Safe certification? I hear them, I feel them, it’s how I feel about all certifications, labels, announcements, marketing. It’s why the Farm isn’t currently Organic Certified, we certainly meet or exceed all those qualifications, but the time- Oh! The time of keeping records, the time of hosting an inspector, the MONEY! Oh the cost to me, to you, to be certified Organic can be very impactful. Well, if I, or you, find a grant that pays for the certificate, let’s do it!

So if I am so skeptical of these kinds of certificates why did I host two farm visits and spend a day writing up a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management plan for the Farm? Because Salmon are important. They are important to so many tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Salmon are so very important to the ecosystem, the whole bio-region of Cascadia! I wanted to share a story about my people, it’s sort of our Origin story, it’s the creation story of the Columbia River, it highlights our world view, our way of life, our hope and trust. The Sinixt people, the Arrow Lakes Tribe have always occupied the territory that spans the Canadian/U.S. border in north Central Washington. The Arrow Lakes are important headwaters to the Columbia River.

This story is derived from a version of Marilyn James and you can read it on the Sinixtnation.org website. It’s Oral so hit Play!

As you heard, if Rain didn’t oddly fall in love with the grotesque, lying and cheating Coyote (Sin-ka-lip) the Arrow Lakes wouldn’t have formed and her blood wouldn’t have carved out the Columbia River’s path. I’m grateful that she found the strength (and anger) to hold Coyote to his promise though, without that conviction Salmon and so many other critters and plants wouldn’t be here with us today.

A salmon jumping up Kettle Falls- from sinixtnation.org

Unfortunately on July 5 1941 the Grand Coulee Damn was finished and the village that
members of my family are buried at was flooded. And the great, beautiful gift from Coyote, the Ilthkoyape or Falls of Boiling Baskets, “La Chaudiere” as the French fur traders called it, Kettle Fallswas also flooded, drowned under Lake Roosevelt to this day. “Up until 1946, salmon and steelhead continued to appear at the base of the newly erected Grand Coulee Dam, trying to get upriver to spawn. After 1946, none was seen at the dam again. Our people have never been compensated for this tragic loss of our rich cultural heritage”- sinixtnation.org 

In the previous link you can read the creation story of the Kettle Falls. A town still stands there and my Grandmother and I have talked about taking a road trip to visit several locations and especially the cemetery at Kettle Falls. I think recently there has been more conversations around genetic memory. I’ve always felt that somewhere inside me were my ancestors calling me home, to the land. Much like Salmon have it in their DNA to return to their place of birth. I think there is this memory of the land in my genes, in all my cells, and I am becoming more comfortable and sure that this is truth, not romanticism, a reality inside me. Inside us all, and it’s just a matter of time.

Fishing at Kettle Falls

Sinixt people fishing from traditional platforms with baskets hung from long poles to catch jumping salmon in. – sinixtnation.org

This is why the Salmon Safe Certificate appealed to me, why I worked so hard on it, why I was more than happy to have the government pay for it. Salmon are important, the Sinixt, the bears, the land is starving now without the Salmon returning. On x̌ast sq̓it (Good Rain) Farm we do what we can to help, to spread the word, to be stewards of the land, to treat it with love, reverence and thanks, just as Farm Michelle’s ancestors have. But it makes me wonder if Coyote still loves Rain, the Sinixt hope that he’ll fulfill his promise and make everything right, but the Salmon no longer make their way back to Rain’s heart, bursting with love as proof that Coyote still thinks of her. Is our hope misplaced? Maybe, but shouldn’t we keep trying anyways? That’s another story for another day, Hummingbird has so much to teach us about perseverance and tenacity!

Lim̓lm̓t,

Thank you,

From your Farmer Michelle Week