Learn about PNW’s Indigenous eating habits at the Clark Lecture

Indigenous scholar Charlotte Coté will share stories from her Tseshaht community as part of the annual Robert D. Clark Lecture on October 6.

His talk, “The River That Runs Through Us,” will take place at 7 p.m. in Room 282, Lillis Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Cote’s talk is the first in the Oregon Humanities Center’s 2022-23 “Belonging” series. His lecture will be interpreted in ASL and will also be broadcast live and recorded. Register to attend in person or virtually on the Oregon Center for the Humanities website.

Côté grew up in the Nuu-chah-nulth community of Tseshaht on the west coast of Vancouver Island, along a river whose name Tseshaht means “cleaning or washing”. The river was named the Somass River by white settlers who began settling in Tseshaht territory in the mid-1800s.

“When I was young, the … sockeye salmon was so plentiful that there were shallow places in the river where you could walk and you would feel the salmon swimming between your legs,” Coté said. “Having this plentiful supply of salmon has made us dependent as an abundant and healthy food source, and many people in my community have become avid anglers, myself included.”

She will share stories of her Tseshaht community, stories of the river that flows through her ancestral territory. She will explain how, through the harvesting, processing and sharing of salmon, the Tseshaht strengthen their cultural ties with their salmon relatives, with their waterways and ancestral lands, and with each other.

Maintaining the relationship is central to Tseshaht food sovereignty. But, as Coté explains, achieving food sovereignty for Northwest Coast Indigenous communities like his own comes with many challenges. Pollution, habitat destruction, fish farming, environmental degradation and climate change threaten the ecosystems where these relationships have thrived for millennia.

Coté is a professor in the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Washington. She has dedicated her personal and academic life to raising awareness of Indigenous health and wellness issues and working with Indigenous peoples and communities to revitalize their traditional dietary habits.

In his recent book, “A Drum in one Hand, A Sockeye in the Other: Stories of Indigenous Food Sovereignty from the Northwest Coast,” Coté shares contemporary Nuu-chah-nulth practices of revitalizing traditional foods in the context of further efforts -Indigenizing contemporary diets on the Northwest Coast.

Coté is the author of the book “Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors: Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth Traditions” as well as numerous articles. She is the editor of the UW Press Indigenous Confluences series and is the founder and chair of the annual UW Indigenous Foods Symposium.

The recording will be available on the Oregon Humanities Center website Youtube channel. For disability accommodations, which must be arranged by September 29, email [email protected] or call 541-346-3934.

Nohemi M. Moore