Explore what it looks like to fragment a forest, to drain a river, and to make a city unsafe for the humans that live there. Travel from the Black River to the West Duwamish Greenbelt, from Rainier Beach to Judkins Park, and ask, what would it take to press reset? Instead of a continued legacy of deforestation, displacement, and police brutality, what if Seattle tried something completely new? Hear how the Duwamish River became a waterway and how the Black River became a stream. Learn from food sovereignty strategist Valerie Segrest about the role of the Duwamish River in the Muckleshoot creation story and how a Supreme Court decision renewed Tribal access to ancestral fishing sites, pressing reset on their economy. Travel to the West Duwamish Greenbelt, where 500 acres were logged, mined for gravel, nearly turned into a highway, and finally restored to the largest contiguous forest in Seattle. Hear from Lylianna Allala, Climate Justice Director with the city of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment and Nancy Whitlock from the Nature Consortium about what it took to press reset, and to begin restoring a biodiverse forest. March with 60,000 people from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park to declare police brutality a greater public health crisis than coronavirus. Hear from Jace ECAJ and Colleen Echohawk on what a resilient forest can teach us about keeping each other safe, and how we might press reset in this moment. Listen to the premiere of Affliction, the new single from Glass Heart String Choir which was inspired by the West Duwamish Greenbelt and written for the Growing Old series.
Learn more at GrowingOldProject.com.
Subscribe on your favorite streaming platform, and follow the Growing Old Project on Instagram.
This series was created in collaboration.
Lylianna Allala, Colleen Echohawk, and Tamara Power-Drutis
Zoey Echohawk-Hayashi, Collen Echohawk, Lylianna Allala, Tamara Power-Drutis along with various members of the Growing Old team.
Music for the series by:
Black Stax, Glass Heart String Choir, Lacey Warrior, and Talaya Logan Marque Studios with engineering and mixing by Katie Mosehauer and Greg Fields and mixing and mastering by Pierre Ferguson.
Music in Episode 7 by:
Glass Heart String Choir (Ian Williams and Katie Mosehauer), Black Stax, Kai Engel, Chris Zabriskie, and Tamara Power-Drutis.
Katie Mosehauer, Tamara Power-Drutis, and Katie Myers
In Partnership With:
Chief Seattle Club and Earth Day Northwest 2020
This is the kind of story that begins in a forest, on the traditional lands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Muckleshoot, and Coast Salish People, past and present. It’s a story about Seattle’s urban forest and the humans that live within it. It’s told with gratitude, to honor the trees who care for us, and those who care for this land. To learn, or to remember, the medicines that have been a part of this place since time immemorial.
We start in the year 2070, imagining what our City might look like if we planted the right seeds today. We follow the story of Chief Seattle Club, as they turn concrete into a Medicine Garden at Eagle Village. And we end each episode with you. You. And me. And how we might work together so that the humans and trees in our community can grow old.
This is Growing Old, from Seattle Washington.
In this episode, you’ll continue to hear from the Growing Old Project team:
Thanks for being part of the Growing Old Project.
If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcast or your favorite streaming platform, and give us a review to help others discover the Growing Old Project.
Thanks for being part of the Growing Old Project.
If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcast or your favorite streaming platform, and give us a review to help others discover the Growing Old Project.
Today we explore what it looks like to fragment a forest, to drain a river, and to make a city unsafe for the humans that live there.
We travel from the Black River, to the West Duwamish Greenbelt, from Rainier Beach to Judkins Park, and we ask, what would it take to press reset?
Instead of a continued legacy of deforestation, displacement, and police brutality, Seattle tried something completely new?
The Duwamish Waterway wasn’t always a “waterway.”
Once it was a river, with bends and flourishing fish of many species.
Once, it gave life to a biodiverse forest, an edible landscape as far as the eye can see.
But beginning in Fall of 1913, twenty million cubic yards of mud and sand were used to fill those bends and deepen the channel.
The vision was to dig a canal from Elliot Bay to Lake Washington.
And to achieve it required the straightening of the Duwamish River, and the draining of the Black River.
The Black River exists today as a dammed stream.
The Duwamish River is now a Waterway.
Neither support a thriving ecosystem anymore.
And in the Duwamish River, Salmon is now the only remaining non-toxic fish swimming.
In the early 1900s, when the Army Corps of Engineers blasted open the Ballard locks, the Black River, which would connect our systems, dried up in a matter of days.
If you’re a Growing Old regular, you probably know the voice of food sovereignty strategist Valerie Segrest by now.
Several of our community members were from the Black River village. So they actually have testimony where they are sharing what it felt like to watch this river disappear in front of their very eyes.
And that river was actually really special because at certain times of the day, at certain times of the year, it would shift directions, and a specific type of fish would come to that river in particular. And so it was very special and it was really a great part of the ecosystem that helped feed the Duwamish River, the Puget Sound.
And it's always important to point out that every time we pave over a Camus prairie or put powerlines up over a berry patch, or dry up a river to control the water level in Lake Washington, that there are losses that happen for my People. And for a broader, busier society, those losses are invisible. They're invisible losses, they are traumatic for our people and trigger points.
And so rekindling our connection with the land is that important to us that we are addressing historical trauma in the process of doing it.
Valerie is a member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which is composed of descendants of the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup people.
Following the establishment of their Reservation in 1857, the Tribe took the name Muckleshoot, derived from the Lushootseed name for the prairie on which the Muckleshoot Reservation was established.
Ancestral Muckleshoot villages had access to fishing, hunting, and gathering sites across the Duwamish watershed, through a network of kinship with other villages.
But since colonization, they’ve faced near endless challenges to accessing their ancestral lands and waters.
It wasn’t until after the 1974 Supreme Court decision to uphold the Stevens Treaties that the Muckleshoot Tribe was affirmed as a political successor to the Duwamish bands party to the Treaty of Point Elliott.
The Supreme Court decision reserved land between the White and Green rivers, and entitled the Muckleshoot Tribe to 50% of the fish available for harvest at traditional tribal fishing locations.
Renewed access to fishing on the Duwamish River has helped to revitalize Tribal economies and communities.
And it’s also led to landmark agreements protecting fish and wildlife habitat.
When quality of life improved for the Muckleshoot people, it improved for every living creature in our ecosystem.
We asked Valerie to tell us about the Duwamish River, and it’s importance in her community.
The Duwamish River is actually what we call U.N.A. our usually accustomed fishing grounds, and so several times a year we're out there fishing. It's where the Muckleshoot Seafood Products Company is at, and it's where, our tribal fishermen report to and hang out during the fishing season.
There are several important places along the river that we find such a connection to as Muckleshoot People who we've actually named after some of our great leaders. So my daughter's great grandmother Bernice White has a park named after her right there on the Duwamish River.
Cecil Moses was a great leader for our Tribe and there's a park named after him down there on the river.
And there's a 90 degree bend on the river, where an ancient story called Northwind Fishing Wheir is said to have happened in it is actually a creation story for our village.
Several of our community members are descendants from the longhouses that were along the Duwamish River. And so it's a really culturally important place for us.
And we bring our youth down there and teach them about this place. This is a practice we just recently started because the tribe is so far away from it's not far it's like a I mean, with Seattle traffic, it can take up to 40 minutes to get there. So it seems really distant for some of the folks who have lived on the Reservation their entire life, and they feel separate from that area but should know that their creation stories come from the that river right there.
The 1974 Supreme Court decision helped to press reset, renewing the Muckleshoot Tribe’s access to the West Duwamish River and their ancestral lands.
And yet development of the area surrounding the river has continued to expand.
The West Duwamish Greenbelt has been logged, mined for gravel, and at one point nearly turned into a highway.
What was once a rich, biodiverse forest gave way to invasive species and debris, and for a while, it looked like the forest might disappear entirely.
Thankfully, there are quite a few hummingbirds out there.
Like Lylianna, who spent years leading restoration efforts in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, and established a deep connection to the forest and community there.
So much so, that she still lives near the Greenbelt in White Center.
I love the greenbelt.
What I want people to know about the West Duwamish Greenbelt is that this forest is a home, a home that belongs to everyone, creatures and plants and people. And it's a forest that holds memory, the memory of those creatures that have sought refuge in it. And so there's this unknown element to the forest that holds a feeling of familiarity.
People live in there, I think that's really important that people find refuge in the forest. And people who don't have many choices in terms of where they can find refuge.
I think, you know, going back to people recognizing that there's folks living in there is critical when we're trying to be good neighbors.
I think we have to remember that there are folks out there that, you know, could use a friendly face or smile when you're walking down the trail. Or, you know, maybe if you have a cup of an extra cup of coffee while you're walking the trail, you can stop in and leave one for somebody like I think it's the small kindnesses that we can provide each other.
It can be overwhelming sometimes when we're working on, or working on or living in proximity to issues that are so huge. It can feel crushing. But I also think it's important to remember that there's small things that we can do to contribute and try to make somebody's life a little bit more manageable.
I think during this time of isolation in response to COVID-19, it's really easy to not take care of ourselves and each other. And a piece of taking care of ourselves and each other is finding our way back to nature, and allowing ourselves to be consumed by perhaps the quiet of a forest or the fresh air, or even paying attention to the way that our body moves as we're climbing up a hill or sitting on a bench and taking in a view. It's a way that brings us back to ourselves and allows us to reconnect with our natural spaces, and reconnect with each other. I think even if you know the advice is to stay within a minimum of six feet from each other.
There's still something really special about being in a forest and you can still abide by that. And seeing somebody else six feet away from you or more and kind of catching a moment and being in a space together, knowing that this thing, this virus is happening to all of us, is an action of healing as well.
We traveled with Lylianna to the West Duwamish Greenbelt, where we met with Nancy Whitlock from the Nature Consortium, a pivotal organization in the restoration effort there.
Welcome to the West Duwamish Greenbelt! It is the largest contiguous forest in the City of Seattle at just under 500 acres. And its sister forest, the East Duwamish, also plays a really critical role, so there's a lot to talk about.
First, I want to acknowledge that we're on Coast Salish Tribal land, Duwamish land, and that there is a very rich history here that has predated us, as settlers and colonialism changed the landscape and change the livelihoods of folks that lived in this area.
Nancy lives just across the street from the Greenbelt, which she says provides a critical buffer from the industrial corridor along the Duwamish River.
The air quality is cleaner, it's quieter, it's cooler, and so back when Nature Consortium started doing restoration here, it was just so important for the whole neighborhood to restore this forest because nothing was happening. It was being overrun by invasive vegetation.
At the time, the City of Seattle was preparing to sell off the property, intending it to become the Sound Way highway from Vashon Island to Downtown Seattle. It slated seven acres of wilderness for market rate housing.
And while neighbors to the wildspace felt the deep need for affordable housing, they knew none of the homes being built would be priced for low income residents.
They also knew that once the West Duwamish Greenbelt had been turned to concrete, they would lose the local park that provided such critical ecosystem services and health to their community.
In spite of all of the forces working against them, the community was able to press reset.
And to take a different approach in the West Duwamish Greenbelt.
The neighborhood kind of banded together. And so we started doing restoration here.
We ended up stopping the development. So this is now parksland in perpetuity, so it can never be developed.
During the height of their restoration efforts, up to 5000 volunteers a year were participating in removing invasive species and planting native trees through regular work parties.
We had them every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, all year round. And we would also hire musicians to come out and play during the work parties while volunteers worked.
So we should go in?
Lylianna and Nancy led us on a walk through the West Duwamish Greenbelt. We asked about the young conifers we saw growing there, juxtaposed against the canopy of deciduous trees.
All of this was covered in invasive blackberry and ivy plants that were brought over from Europe, you won't find them here normally. So a lot of a lot of that was community led habitat restoration. And so what we're looking at now is basically the fruits of all that labor.
Were you’re saying it was species brought over from Europe, but that's what the restoration efforts brought it back to?
That’s Katie Myers from The Vida Agency, our promotional and outreach partner.
Yeah, these are all native plants. Uh huh. There's still some, I don't know. I can't see them right now. There's still some invasives but like, this is Simple Berry, this is Indian Plumb, all Native. A Willow.
That's really cool.
Hazelnut. Madrona, these are really hard to establish trees in a forest.
So that's where they would have put 40 units of market rate housing that would have been up on the hill looking down into the forest, and there would have been a lot of runoff coming down into the forest that would not have been good. So pretty much all of the runoff that's coming this way is flowing through this forest first before it gets to the Duwamish River.
Which is why it's so critical that this forest exists, because the communities that are living along the river are already dealing with the impact of industry, from directly on the River. And if there are ways that we can mitigate the pollution and stormwater runoff from dirty stuff directly getting into the River and impacting those communities, this is the, one of the biggest answers for filtering that pollution.
Did you want to talk about the trees?
Do we ever.
Oh yeah, if you're looking above, what's missing?
And there would have been a lot of Cedars and whatnot in here.
In the West Duwamish areas were clear cut. And the first plants to come up on a scene, the Pioneer species, tend to be Alder or Black Cottonwood. Both are deciduous trees.
And so their job is to start to populate and remediate soil and start to provide some nutrients and different shade. And so that allows other species to start to come up.
But the problem with that is, is if there was a clear cut, it's a lot harder for the conifers to start to grow. on their own. So you'll see in that forest, a lot of them have been intentionally planted.
What's interesting about, having this conversation and being more aware is, I usually am aware of when I'm under a canopy of trees but not thinking about the diversity of it at all. And when you look up here, it's like, visually it just looks so different right?
When you have a forest that's dominated by one species or three species, leaves the health of that forest at risk, because if there were to be a pest or some sort of disease that were to come and affect all the Western Red Cedars, for example, and you only had Western Red Cedars, they'd be taken out.
And so what we were trying to do here is mimic the natural biodiversity that we would have seen in these forests before people came and messed it up. And so that that was an intention here.
The other aspect of it is diversity in canopy cover. So, like I mentioned, establishing a really diverse overstory and then the middle area and, you know, low, low plants where it's also really important for us so that we can create the strongest ecosystem possible.
The restoration that’s occurred in the West Duwamish Greenbelt shows what’s possible when humans join forces with trees. The result can be seen not only in the increased diversity of trees growing through the Greenbelt, but also in the growth of wildlife in the corridor, such as the resurgence of the Cooper’s Hawk.
What's important about how big it is, is that there are a lot of people living next to the industrial corridor that exists on the banks of the Duwamish. And so the forest plays a really critical role in filtering air and noise, providing a space for people to forage or run on trails, or lead environmental education workshops, or art, you know, do art in the forest.
Months after going into the field together, I spoke with Katie Mosehauer and Ian Williams of Glass Heart String Choir, to ask about which of the parks and wildlands had stayed with them. What had captured their imagination as we walked through Seattle’s forest?
Glass Heart String Choir, like Black Stax and Lacey Warrior, created the original recordings you’ve been hearing throughout our season and this episode.
So I had never been to the Duwamish Greenbelt before, I knew it was a thing, and that was as specific as I could get. And so that was a really eye opening experience.
I had no idea that such a just huge Herculean effort existed to get a do over on some of our past practices.
And I think it was a little bit shameful. I've lived here for a long time and had never heard that story and heard how much people have poured into trying to rebuild a forest. And it was really an impressive amount of effort and an impressive forest that's regenerating.
So it's just thinking, everyone has to come here. How do we mandate that like you don't get to move to Seattle unless you do this walk?
Building on that, seeing a place like Schmitz Park, where within the city limits of Seattle, you can see an old growth forest and see what the entirety of Seattle used to look like not that long ago. And what we have changed in a hundred and 50 years is really eye opening.
So you're saying we should plant some trees instead of having a recording studio?
In the history of the West Duwamish Greenbelt, Ian and Katie saw an allegory for much of human behavior.
They explore what it means to destroy, grieve, and endure in their song Affliction, written for the Growing Old Project series.
[AFFLICTION SONG CLIP]
I’ve an animal’s lust that I’d kill to discard.
I’d entune this affliction, not exhibit the scars.
And I’d love to just grow, towards the sun and the heat.
And be clear of this burden, this common repeat.
And I could anchor a hill not destroy it for good. And I’d be greater with time, not just bitter and old.
You can hear the full song, Affliction, from Glass Heart String Choir at the end of this episode, you can also hear it on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, or download it for free on our website at GrowingOldProject.com.
How do we entomb this affliction, as Glass Heart String Choir asks?
How might we become anchors of restoration and justice, rather than part of the next destructive wave to hit Seattle?
No one can restore a forest on their own.
Just as no one could have drained the Black River on their own.
What we choose to prioritize as a community manifests itself in our living environment.
That’s because we are part of our environment.
The physical environment of Seattle tells us who we are as a people, and what we value most.
As we saw in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, a forest is only resilient to storm, infestation, and climate change if it is diverse.
That’s because each different type of tree and plant brings something unique to the community, connecting at the roots so that the collective ecosystem grows strong and contiguous.
Like a forest, our human roots are intertwined.
Our community will only be resilient to things like pandemics and climate change if we grow to value difference, and remove the invasive racism that has wound it’s way around our institutions and systems, from health, education, housing, policy, infrastructure, philanthropy, to policing and accountability.
I met up with Jace to talk about what we can learn from a resilient forest as protests around the city call for immediate action to reform the Seattle Police Department.
Well, you are in the south end of Seattle, Washington, where I like to say the kids don't get to play hopscotch. This is the area I grew up in. The area I was raised in. I've been living in the south of Seattle for about 30 plus years. Grew up on 48th in front to neck right down the street. And right now we're walking down Rainier Avenue, right in front of Rainier Beach Community Center, the home of where I played ball. So it's a good place to be.
Jace tries not to interact with SPD, as much as is possible.
But of course, as a Black man in the United States and Seattle, Washington particularly, I've had my run ins with them. Some of them have treated me with decency and humaneness, some of them have been really for lack of a better term assholes, and make you go through the thing of stepping out the car. I've been out the car I've been on sitting on a sidewalk I've been slammed on a hood. I've been I'm not gonna say roughed up. I've been chased by the police, knee and the neck deep in the back.
And so when I saw the, even the image of Mr. Floyd laying there, I thought about how lucky I was to survive that, how lucky I was to come home to my children to the community that I love and still be able to share my voice in a way that I consider a blessing.
Jace has seen locals from Rainier Beach join SPD thinking that they’ll be a part of changing the system, but instead finding themselves changed by it.
And so when I look at police overall, I think that there's some people that signed up because they thought they would be doing great things. But then when they get a part of a system, and they see what it really is about.
When they say there's 99% of good cops, I say well, how come 99% of these murders keep happening with good cop standing around? Where are the good cops when that's happening? They're good when they're,loyal to what the system is. But are they good to the people?
For Jace, it would be better if officers lived in and were active members of the communities they are policing. While adding budget for police to attend community events and engage with the public is better than nothing, even better would be if those officers were already part of the community fabric, showing up at youth sporting events, farmers markets, and gatherings as a neighborly participant, not a uniformed presence.
I would love for them to live in the communities. So when they do do something, we can go and knock on their door and ask them the questions. I don't want them to live 20 miles outside the city and we never seen them.
Jace imagines a future where officers see their role as a service to their local neighborhood, and are able to leverage their deep understanding and personal connections to make places like Rainier Beach safer, rather than adding to the violence.
Because it's different when you know, if you're talking to somebody and you know them, or you know who their father is, or their mother is or who their brother or sister uncle, or grandparents are, you have a different relationship with them.
And it might be even, hey, I see you doing wrong, but as opposed to me brutalizing you, as opposed to me locking you up. I'm gonna tell you mom about this. I'm gonna tell your dad about this. And then we can have a conversation. So now the community is back involved. And that's how I grew up. It was community, like you walk down the street, and everybody would know where you live and who you are and who your mama was your daddy was, who your brothers were. And that's important because then it holds accountability to not just the person doing wrong, but also the person watching them do wrong.
I have an obligation to tell you what I saw, as opposed to what you know, I don't know them. I don't I don't have no judgment. I don't have nothing to say. Yeah, you do. It's destroying your neighborhood. Yeah, you do if it's harming other people. Yeah, you do we have a responsibility to one another.
We walked down Rainier Avenue, turning left on Henderson and heading toward Beer Shiva Park, and talked about the wave of protests that have crossed Seattle since the murder of George Floyd.
You know, I hear people saying his name, but they don't speak to me. And I said, Wow, so if that was me, would you be speaking for me, but you can't speak to me? Would you be out here yelling and yelling my name? That's Jace. But when Jace walks down the street, you turn away and you look away and you said Black Lives Matter 100 times. But you've never once said anything to a black man that's walked by you. To me that says a lot and it talks about mentality of the people we're talking about.
As we followed Mapes Creek into Be’er Shiva Park, the sounds of cars and traffic faded to that of Lake Washington, and birdsong.
And you know, we're talking about George Floyd. But we're just talking about a system that has had their knee on black men's neck, black women's necks for so long. That we're like, okay, we're gonna breathe now. Because we have to live. We have to. We’re not asking. But we have to live.
Jace says that, in the way we witness Mother Earth resetting herself during this pandemic, we are called to do the same.
Reform has been offered up as the solution to police brutality for generations, but the barrel is poisoned, and reforming the apples is no longer enough.
Now is the time to press restart, not just on the institutions and systems that oppress, but on ourselves, and on the narratives we cling to.
If we can do that, he says, we might just live to see a Seattle where humans and trees grow old.
I see a bustling community. I see children being able to play. I see people walking down the street talking to each other. I see finding a commonality to street festivals or barbecues. I see people that come to the neighborhood, being purposeful of why they're in the neighborhood if they don't live there. I see all hands on deck. I see people people engaged in conversations upliftment and growth. I see development in this area and not development where you get gentrified, but development where you honor those that are here. I see people growing their own gardens. I see people exchanging different items for survival, whether it's water, food, or shelter or laughs. I see beauty. I see a world, a city that honors those that came before, but also see the clarity of the future.
I see young people, young children playing hopscotch, dancing and hearing the rhythm of the community that you're in, smelling the food, and seeing the smiles and the waves of one another to each other.
I see the growth like these trees, that we all stand tall, that we're all proud that we all represent, how we have grown, what are our roots? And everybody understanding that each element of one another adds to the beauty of the life of the community that we're in.
I see my grandson, playing as a grown man, contributing as a grown man, loving, protecting, honoring, living, enjoying life.
Yeah, I see a great future for 2070. If all those things happen, I'm with it.
If they don't, we'll be right back here in 2070, having same conversations that we had in 2020 or 1990 or 1860 or 1619. We're going to be in the same position. So we have to change institutions. We have to get back to human interaction. We have to get back into valuing each other, allowing someone's truth to be their truth, and not feeling like we even have to be a part of it. But in support of it, you know,
I heard Malcolm X say, he said,
Now that I have a new understanding of what human beings are, I understand that everything that I'm about everybody is not. But the one thing that I can do is support their efforts, and they support mine. And regardless of if I'm a Christian, or you're a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Buddhist, regardless if you're Black or you're white, you can support each group of people by being there and giving what they ask of you, and not demanding to be included, where you're not included.
And then when it's time for us all to come together, that we all come together and show our strength. And I believe in that, I would love to see everybody respect the plight of the black man and black woman in America. And understand that since 1619, we've been planning the Great Escape. But the system's, the institutions, the energy has not allowed for that. And now we're in a new day.
So the 400 years slave is over, that curse is over. We're in a new day. So I'm hopeful. I'm very, I love this energy. I love what people are doing and saying, Now let's get to action. Now let's get to what is gonna make us all stand tall like these trees that are as different as we are sitting here, but they stand in harmony. How do we get to harmony?
On a rainy Friday in June, we joined tens of thousands of our neighbors in Judkins Park, in Seattle’s Central District.
It was the largest protest gathering in our city since the murder of George Floyd, supported by hundeds of businesses who closed their doors for the day in solidarity.
From Judkins, an estimated 60,000 feet marched south toward Jefferson Park in silence.
Or, near-quiet at least, collectively declaring that racism is a greater public health crisis than coronavirus.
Alright everyone, thank you so much for being here. I’m heading out on the march myself.
On behalf of Black Lives Matters Seattle -King County, we’ll see you at Jefferson Park.
Clapping is fine.
The day after the march, I met up with Colleen to hear her take.
Since 20170, Colleen has served as an appointed member of the Community Police Commission, working to implement changes such as body cams, in an effort to address systemic racism in Seattle’s policing system.
Of course, there are many good people who are police officers who work for SPD. The problem isn't the officers. The problem is that system, you know, and you know, this is people say this about police reform all the time is that, you know, it's, it's not it's not that there's a few bad apples, it says that the barrel itself is poison.
I think that SPD has tried. There has been, you know, attempts on reform, but we are in part of a system and SPD is part of a system that is inherently tainted. And we have to find ways to, to dismantle that system so that we can have really good protection for some of our most vulnerable relatives.
At the Chief Seattle Club we have seen ongoing for years and years police brutality against Native people who are homeless, you know, and so that is just sad. It's the facts and despite our efforts around police reform work, it doesn't seem to have lessened.
Seeing the murder of George Floyd was brutal. It reaffirmed to me more and more just about how how the how even the the work on trying to um reform a system has just been, it's failing, it's failing Black people, it's failing Native people. And so we have to, we have to come to grips with that in this country. And I and that's why I'm just in love with the Black Lives Matter protests that are going on, I'm loving that our city has been out there and just been, you know, pouring their heart and soul to it.
We talked about some of the reset models on the table, such as Camden County, New Jersey, where the police department was shuttered, all officers were fired, and a completely new approach was built from the ground up.
I asked her, what makes the most sense here in Seattle? To continue reform efforts? Or to press restart, as Jace said?
I don't believe that our accountability system that we call it has been truly accountable to the community. We've been working on it for so long, and it has been not working. Let's evaluate that system, you know, our police accountability system, and to say, Hey, that was a really good try. We did really, really hard on that. And let's do something different.
I want to press restart. I think that prior to George Floyd, I was still kind of like, just, you know, hunkered down into the reform work we're doing. I think we've had some amazing people trying to do this reform work here in Seattle, amazing people, some of those brilliant people in the world literally, you know, and, but it just be tried, and it just didn't, it just failed us.
Colleen first got involved in police reform to protect her Native relatives living on the streets.
I also feel a lot of concern and worry for our our Native folks. How do we protect them in this time to? With the protests that are going on, and with the curfew and everything that was incredibly hard for the people who live in Eagle Village, and for people who live outside.
When you live outside, and all of a sudden you're told curfew, and you're like, Where am I? Where am I supposed to go? I wander the streets at night. And so, that was really scary for a lot of our folks experiencing homelessness and for those of us who our responsibility is to care for them.
I have struggled like crazy with sweeps in Seattle. Often it's like brown people that are getting swept there. They're struggling with mental health again, and with addiction issues. And so we're sweeping some very amazing people um and not giving them the right kind of resources.
One of the biggest problems with the Seattle navigation team, which is in part takes care of those sweeps is they are our police officers that go along with some case management. Police officers caused a lot of POC folks to get full in and go fully into anxiety.
And it’s not just POC folks it’s the homeless community, other folks like when they see an officer, it's not a place of comfort? It's it's a fear and scared and anxious. And so one of the things we could immediately do is move officers off of the navigation team and invest in thousands of trained, trauma informed case managers who would go out there and handle the situation beautifully. Would love our homeless community, would see them the humanity in their eyes, and we would see effective change happen for this community.
Rather than continuing to iterate upon ineffective reform, Colleen hopes our city has the courage to press restart.
This is uncomfortable, where the whole world is uncomfortable right now because of COVID-19. Now we have this reckoning around police brutality, and it is time for us to dig into that uncomfort and say, “Where have I participated in a system that has perpetuated systemic racism? And how do I change my lens to become anti-racist?”
And that means actual action. It's not enough for us to talk about systemic racism anymore, it's done. Or even a race and equity lens, how do I become anti-racist in my actions, in my work, with my family, there's just so many places for us to change that narrative and move it forward. I want my grandchildren to have a different opportunity than my kids are going to have.
I think when you think about the diversity of our, our tree canopy and the forest, there's such a beautiful message for us there that that we really truly need each other. And that without that diversity we are going to make this a weak movement.
Black and Indigenous people, we've carried a lot of trauma for this country for a long time. And now it's time for all of us to carry it and to see it, literally see it in ways that we haven't prior to social media, and cell phones. And so now that we all are carrying this trauma together at different levels, some of us have at a much higher level of course, how will react in order to make it healthier for everyone?
The seeds we plant now will reflect who we are as a City in 50 years. It seems likely that the West Duwamish Greenbelt will continue to grow more biodiverse, more contiguous, more native every year.
It seems equally likely that shoreline habitat where the Black River once flowed will continue to be eliminated by development, substantially altering rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook and other salmon.
And likely as well that, unless we press restart, Black and Indigenous members of our community will continue to face police brutality in the year 2070.
That is, unless we’d like to do something about it.
That's why I love Growing Old, because it's not just about the trees, but it's about the rhythm that goes with it. Right. So you have your hip hop, you have your acoustic, you have your traditional Indigenous music. And each one of those songs, the rhythm of them, help you flow through the whole podcast.
So, on behalf of Black Stax, on behalf of Jace, on behalf of Growing Old Project, I want to say thank you for all the energy that's being put forward to making sure that it's being not just noticed but honored, respected. The movement is here. The time is now. Today is the day. Tomorrow's too late.
Continue to keep on with those who you know have been doing this work. Make sure they're involved. Make sure you're honest with yourself.
And lastly, be humane. Be humane, love yourself, love the earth. Love each other. Stay Staxin.
We’ll be back next week with one last episode in our season.
This is, Growing Old. Tales from an urban canopy.
This series was developed in collaboration.
It was co-created by Colleen Echohawk, Lylilanna Allala, and Tamara Power-Drutis.
It was produced by Katie Mosehauer.
Music for the series was created by Lacey Warrior, Glass Heart String Choir, and Black Stax.
Promotion and marketing was provided by Katie Myers and The Vida Agency.
Support for this project is provided by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and Arts in the Parks, a partnership between the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and Seattle Parks and Recreation.
This is Growing Old.
SONG: AFFLICTION, BY GLASS HEART STRING CHOIR