The project aims to center the rights of Indigenous peoples in discussions about climate change and environmental sustainability in Washington through partnerships with tribal communities to support recovery of the Salish Sea.

The project aims to center the rights of Indigenous peoples in discussions about climate change and environmental sustainability in Washington through partnerships with tribal communities to support recovery of the Salish Sea.

Finding Common Ground: Communicating Across Borders to Restore the Salish Sea

By joining the skills and energies of UW faculty and students studying human rights and environmental sciences with the tribes leading stewardship efforts, we hope to help shift the conversation about climate change mitigation strategies in our state. This project understands Treaty Tribes as leaders and knowledge producers in this area, enlisting the support of UW faculty and students to engage in innovative digital storytelling. In partnership with Washington Treaty Tribes, Washington Sea Grant and SeaLegacy, students will research, produce, and disseminate digital media highlighting environmental challenges and tribal rights, initiatives, and perspectives in the Salish Sea.  Focusing on themes of tribal sovereignty, climate resiliency, fishery treaty rights, and tribally-led environmental protection and restoration policies, these new tools will be shared with the public at events and discussions centered on the protection and restoration of the Puget Sound.

Ultimately, we believe such efforts can aid in the longer-term recovery of the Salish Sea by catalyzing intercultural collaboration between tribal and non-tribal students, shaping shared understandings of the challenges before us, and ensuring a lasting legacy of cross-cultural environmental education and effective communications capacity between communities of the Puget Sound and the University of Washington.

RATIONALE

While Puget Sound remains beautiful in the eyes of most of its four million inhabitants, its salmon runs are only approximately 15% of historic numbers and critical habitats, including that of Orca Whales, are disappearing at an accelerating rate. Washington Treaty Tribes have been key actors in environmental recovery efforts in the Puget Sound, working with Federal and Washington State agencies.

As illustrated by recovery efforts such as Qwuloolt and Nisqually estuary restoration, tribes play an important role in the protection and recovery of the Puget Sound.  Treaty Rights have proved to be an integral tool in habitat restoration efforts, fisheries co-management, and Indigenous-led fossil fuel infrastructure resistance movements, including opposing TransMountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) and the fracked-gas storage facility on Puyallup ancestral lands. Communication between Tribal and non-tribal entities has frequently been fraught and ineffective, impeding progress on protecting and restoring Salish Sea ecosystems, fostering conflict, and eroding human rights.

This project will develop innovative and lasting channels of communication and collaboration between Tribal and non-tribal communities.

OBJECTIVES

In light of the fact that the Tribes in particular have assumed leading roles in restoration efforts in Puget Sound, our project has been designed to support Tribal sovereignty, fishery treaty rights, Tribally-led environmental protection and restoration policies, and ultimately the recovery of the Puget Sound by:

  • Catalyzing collaboration between Tribal and non-tribal Gen Z youth (the next generation of leaders) to rigorously research, produce, and disseminate digital media highlighting environmental challenges in the Puget Sound and Tribal rights, initiatives and perspectives, student intercultural communication, and their shared interest to restore the Puget Sound;
  • Increasing public awareness of these issues and driving public discussion about the future of the Puget Sound;
  • Building key alliances and institutional collaboration between the University of Washington (UW), various Washington Treaty Tribes, and Washington Sea Grant; and,
  • Ensuring a lasting legacy of intercultural environmental education and effective communications capacity amongst the Washington Treaty Tribes and UW.

We believe that in fulfilling these objectives, we will not only strengthen the voice of Washington Treaty Tribes, but also create a blueprint for expanding engagement to include other tribes and the general public, bridging the communications gap between Tribal and non-tribal communities, and anchoring a robust collaboration for the recovery of Puget Sound.

METHODOLOGY  

We will accomplish our objectives by building on a history of successful intercultural communications and social research projects, and working with established partners, Tribal partners, and UW.

Bridging the communication gap: We will facilitate collaboration between students in UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, the Jackson School of International Studies, the UW American Indian Studies program, and K-12 schools in which Indigenous students are enrolled. After intensive training workshops in social research and digital storytelling, students will produce ten in-depth digital stories on topics such as Puget Sound recovery efforts, fishery rights, climate change, Indigenizing the UW, Tribal rights, Indigenous-led fossil fuel infrastructure resistance movements, and intercultural collaboration.

Public awareness and engagement: Our project will disseminate digital stories and related project media through a strategic social media campaign. The project will also engage the public, and Washington Treaty Tribes and UW leaders, with a series of events.

Institutional collaboration between UW, Washington Treaty Tribes, and Washington Sea Grant: The initial development of a memorandum of understanding, the production of digital stories, and a final project meeting designed to bring together UW, Tribal project partners, and Sea Grant leadership will solidify collaborations and create new ones.

A lasting legacy. The project’s legacy will be ensured by: 

  • Creating a blueprint curriculum and institutional reform in UW environmental and international studies; 
  • the alliances created through the project; and, 
  • the publication of an overall assessment of this process based on a master’s degree thesis. The project impact will be measured qualitatively and quantitatively with interviews and focus groups.

Project Leaders

  • Patrick Christie

    Patrick Christie

    Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

  • Francesca Hillery

    Francesca Hillery

    Co-Lead, Tribal Rights & Environmental Justice project; Owner, Frogfoot Communications

  • Jonathan Warren

    Jonathan Warren

    Professor, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

Student Coordinators