Growing Old: Tales from an Urban Canopy

Sing the Old Songs: Part 1 (episode 4)

Episode Summary

Explore the systems of assimilation that aimed to eliminate Native culture in the United States, systems that began in Washington State. Travel to the Yakima Indian Reservation, where the very first assimilation board school opened, sparking the seizure of tens of thousands of Native children from their parents. Hear how one family rediscovered the songs of their ancestors.

Episode Notes

Learn more at 

Subscribe on your favorite streaming platform, and follow the Growing Old Project on Instagram

This series was created in collaboration. 

Created by:
Lylianna Allala, Colleen Echohawk, and Tamara Power-Drutis

Produced by:
Katie Mosehauer

Written by:
Tamara Power-Drutis

Narrated by:
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 4 part 1 by:
Lacey Warrior, Kai Engel, and Tamara Power-Drutis.

Recording by:
Katie Mosehauer, Tamara Power-Drutis, and Katie Myers

In Partnership With:
Chief Seattle Club and Earth Day Northwest 2020

Promotion and Community Engagement by:
The Vida Agency

Fiscal sponsorship provided by:
Earth Day Northwest 2020 and Forterra

Episode Transcription


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 members of the Growing Old Project team: 


Colleen Echohawk. 

Lacey Warrior. 

Lylianna Allala. 

Tamara Power-Drutis. 

Katie Mosehauer. 

Zoey Echohawk-Hayashi

Jace ECAJ. 

Felicia V. Loud

Ian Williams. 




You’ll also hear from some friends and leaders in our community, including Running Grass, the Director of Three Circles Center for Multicultural Environmental Education, and Kimberly Deriana, a Mandan and Hidatsa architectural designer and artist. 

Welcome to part one of Sing the Old Songs, a two-part episode inspired by a story Colleen shared with us early in the project. 

Colleen, who is an enrolled member of the Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation, and a member of the Upper Athabascan people, leads the Chief Seattle Club as their executive director, working with a number of Coast Salish Tribes across the region.

While she is not Coast Salish herself, she’s had the opportunity to learn from, and be present for many Coast Salish ceremonies and traditions. Traditions that have had an impact on how she approaches her work at the Club. Ceremonies that have left her wondering, what if these Indigenous knowledge systems were led with, in policy decision, in infrastructure development, and in the ways that we interact with our local ecosystem. 



We had an experience a couple years ago at Chief Seattle Club where we wanted to do this, this specific ceremony. We decided we would do it but it had to be done outside because there was a fire. You know, so we don't want to have a fire in our building.

So we went into the alley of our building and we had some Coast Salish elders there. And we're, you know, being doing the ceremony, and I it's not appropriate for me to tell you all the details of the ceremony, but we were singing some of these really old, old songs.

I was just kind of just taking it all in and then I just had this like, incredible realization that that underneath all the asphalt and all that whatever debris is under Pioneer Square is the actual like, you know, we're right in the area, whether the actual waterfront would have been.

And I just had this though, you know, that this land is water, has always heard the songs. I thought like in this place where we're at right now, in this really gross alley behind my building, how long has it been since I've heard this song?

I felt rejuvenated by this knowledge that this land that has been longing to hear these Coast Salish songs were getting to hear these songs again, for the first time in a long time. I think there's impact there. I think that there's strength there. I think that there's hope there for the work that that is upon all of us, not just Native people, but upon every person who cares about what's going to happen to their grandchildren.

Because our world is literally burning down. There's a lot of knowledge there that has to be listened to. We have to be courageous to go back to some of those, those old ways to hear those old songs. And to know that they have some they have everything to offer us, not just a little bit like they have the answers. If we'll listen.



If you listen, you can still hear the old songs, remembered and passed down from pre-contact into the present day. That these songs are remembered at all is a testament to the resilience of the First People of this land. 

In part one of this episode, we explore systems of assimilation that aimed to eliminate Native culture in the United States, systems that began here in Washington State. We take you to the Yakima Indian Reservation, where the very first assimilation board school opened, sparking the seizure of tens of thousands of Native children from their parents. And we hear how one family rediscovered the songs of their ancestors. 

As Manifest Destiny expanded West, the United States ran out of space to relocate Tribes to. Our country determined that the cheapest solution was to assimilate Native children into white society. The goal? To eradicate Native culture, forever. 

Beginning in 1870, tens of thousands of Native youth were seized or coerced away from their families and Tribes, and sent to “assimilation” boarding schools where they were forbidden from practicing their language, religion, or culture. Col. Richard Henry Pratt’s famous motto, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” was a popular justification at the time. 

They were given new names, clothes, and haircuts. They were cut off from Native foods, and required to follow white society’s food norms. They were made to celebrate Columbus Day as the beginning of their Native history. In addition to reading, writing, and the Ten Commandments, they were taught the value of private property, material wealth, and individualism. 

About a third of the schools were run by nuns of various Christian denominations. But Christian values were rarely seen in these schools. Between the corporal punishment, exploitative labor, and the waves of tuberculosis, trachoma, and the flu, many children died. Some of their remains are still buried far from their Tribal lands.

Countless parents and villages joined forces to resist and to get their children back, but the courts and U.S. citizens allowed the practice to continue for over a century. It’s a part of our history that we don’t like to talk about. And it all began here in Washington State, where the very first boarding school opened, on the Yakima Indian Reservation. 

Two of the children raised in such a boarding school would one day become great grandparents to Lacey Warrior, one of our collaborators on the Growing Old Project. She shared their story with us. 



My great great grandparents met at Chimoa Boarding School in Oregon. My great great grandpa's Dena’ina, Native Alaskan. And my great great grandma's Aaniiih,Gros Ventre. 

In boarding school, our language culture, songs or ceremonies, our identities were beaten and raped and stolen from us. My great grandparents learned to behave a certain way to survive the boarding school. 



Lacey’s great grandparents eventually moved back to the Gros Ventre Reservation, and Lacey’s grandpa was born and raised without Native culture as well. 



They raised him without it so he could be safe, if he were to ever venture out and go out into the world. And then 1950s he moved out to Seattle during the Indian Relocation Act, and that's how my family ended up out here in Seattle. 

My mom, she grew up trying to ask questions about it. But she stopped after a while because, grandpa, he learned what he learned from the boarding schools, he would beat his kids if they asked too much about it. So they learned to stop asking. It was just what happened. 



Even though the elders in Lacey’s family didn’t talk about their culture, they still found ways to preserve it for future generations. 



Finally when he was a bit older, my mom was a young adult and she had started asking and he had opened up a little bit about his grandma, who had tried to keep some things safe when kids were being taken away from their parents to go to boarding school. She safeguarded some of the things that were precious to her and important to our family. And so we have some of those things now. 

She was asking my grandpa and he finally told her about the Reservation and so she went and visited there, and then she just dove into researching ancestry and family tree and things like that. 



Lacey’s mother continued to pursue the truth of her family’s history, studying through the American Indian Studies program at the University of Washington. There, she met a number of other Indigenous people and began connecting to their culture on a more personal level. 

The journey brought her to a Medicine Man from Montana, who would eventually come to play a critical role in connecting Lacey and her entire family with their ancestral roots. 




Eight years ago now, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was on his brainstem and inoperable.When my brother came to me, and said, “hey, my brain tumors back, I don't know what to do. I think I'm gonna die.” I said, “you gotta tell Mom.”

He told her, and she sprang right into action. She contacted this Medicine Man from Montana and we went into ceremony, and my brother was healed through the ceremony that was done for him. 

And with that came a vow from my mom. And she vowed to Sun Dance for four years. And in our community, that's a very big deal. It's a huge sacrifice. But, you know, when you're a mom, you're going to make that sacrifice for your child. You're gonna make that sacrifice for your forest. 

And just to see her strength and going through that, because it's not easy. It’s really, really, really hard to go through it. And it's supposed to be really, really hard to go through it, so that that sacrifice, so that that healing sticks. And when I think of a strong tree, or a strong woman, I will always think of my mother first. 

That's really how we came back to our culture, was out of complete necessity to save my brother's life.



The Sun Dance ceremony that Lacey’s mom committed to was once a prohibited ceremony, similar to the potlatch of the Coast Salish People. Laws were passed in the U.S. explicitly prohibiting such gatherings, a further effort to eliminate or assimilate Native communities. 

Lacey’s Tribe and family weren’t allowed to openly practice the Sun Dance or any of their other sacred ceremonies until the late 1970s, after Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Reconnecting with the Aaniiih songs of her people kindled a love in Lacey for the old songs. But while the experience brought her closer to her heritage, the road to claiming that heritage hasn’t always been an easy one. 



There's this term that I really, really hate. But it's, it's real and it's true. I am supposedly “White passing.” And so I deal with a different type of racism. I don't deal with racism in terms of my skin being brown because I don’t have brown skin. I deal with racism that sometimes comes from the non POC community. They see me and I, you know, I have the side of my head shaved. I've got all the Native jewelry on because that's how I identify as a Native American, cause I am.

But I've had people say look in the mirror, you're white, you're not Native. And that's, that's, that's a really hard identity thing to deal with. Because I live my culture. Just because I have a certain blood quantum or whatever does not mean I'm not Native. I have ancestral lineage that can be traced, we did that, I'm enrolled. 

I've had someone tell me that I'm stealing someone else's heritage, when I'm actually just reclaiming my own heritage. I mean, I can deal with that.  That's easier for me to deal with then some Natives in our community who ask me, “Are you Native? You shouldn't be here. You're just a white lady.”

And aside from that, there's the looks that you get when you go to a Powwow. And some of the people there give you a look like, you shouldn't be here. You're non-Native.

And I've actually gotten pretty, pretty good at dealing with it. You know, you either confront it and correct people. Or you can read a situation and if it's not going to be beneficial to that person if they're not going to be open to that education. Leave it alone. There's really nothing you can do or say to change someone's mind sometimes, because the racism runs that deep sometimes.



Like the hummingbird, Lacey continues to do the best she can, in spite of these encounters. Today, she leads the Native Works program at the Chief Seattle Club, working to honor Native tradition while fostering a healthier Native future. 

The healing of her brother sparked a new path for Lacey. It’s when she began drumming, and began learning her ancestral songs, songs that she’s now able to share with others through events and ceremonies. 



The strong woman strong woman song, the song I'm gonna sing, I learned in a group of women called in the Indigenous Sisters Resistance. And I really got involved with them after my divorce, because I was finally allowed to go be part of my community, and started with the Indigenous Sisters Resistance singing with them at vigils for women who had been women in our community who'd gone missing or murdered and started singing with them at activists rallies and in the Idle No More movement that was happening. 

So the Strong Woman Song is one of the first Indigenous songs that I learned and it was written by Anishinabe Kwewag, which is Ojibwe women who were in solitary confinement in prison in Kingston, Ontario in the 1970s. It's an older song. 

This song just came to them. But they wrote this song in hopes that it would travel to other women, so that women know that we're not alone, and that we're strong together. And that we're so strong together that we can make it through the harder circumstances that come our way. And it was meant to be shared. It's meant for, for women to share the song with each other and with community and share with women who are already strong to acknowledge that this is a strong woman. 

And so whenever I sing Strong Woman Song again, I think of my mother. She's the strongest woman I know. And I know there's a lot of women out there will say, Yeah, my mom's the strongest woman I know. And I think that's good. I think that women should know that their mother’s the strongest person that they know. So, listen up, kiddos. Can you open your sister? 

So being a native woman in Seattle is, hard, but also, there's a lot of us in Seattle, more than you think. And so there's a huge support system among Native women in Seattle. When one of us is facing something really hard, all other Native women will come to her and help support her and whatever she's facing. 



Assimilation boarding schools tried their best to kill Native culture. But lucky for all of us, they didn’t succeed. Instead, resilient through Centuries of oppression, a renaissance of Indigenous knowledge has emerged. 

In places like Seattle, with a strong Urban Native community, this knowledge is finding its way into policy, initiatives, and infrastructure -- at least it’s starting to, where the non-Native community is ready to listen and learn. 

We joined Lacey Warrior at Kimberly Deriana’s Winter Residency program at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Kimberly is a Mandan and Hidatsa architectural designer and artist specializing in sustainable, environmental Indigenous architecture, housing, and planning. 



She’s so awesome. 



Her methods focus on incorporating Indigenous lifestyle practices in relationship to past and present, designing for the seven generations. For her public residency event, she invited the Native and non-Native community together to share Indigenous knowledge and traditions around cattail weaving. 

Lacey opened the event, singing the Strong Woman song. 



Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.

way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.




You can hear the full Strong Woman Song at the end of this episode. You can also download or stream the single. For now, we take you to into the Olympic Sculpture Park, to hear from Kimberly. 



So I'm just going to share a little bit about the project and the process. And then we're gonna do a round of dance and just to teach you guys about our culture and how we get down and how we come together. 

My work as an artist and architectural designer is based in traditional Indigenous structures and methodologies. And so this space is activated with that with those concepts in mind.



Around the room stood cattail weavings designed by Kimberly and her collaborators, some smaller mats and items displayed on tables, but most standing prominently throughout the room, re-defining the space we were in. 



I first learned about cattail mats from one of my mentors. She's Kootenai on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, where I'm from. I grew up in Bozeman, Montana. I’m Mandan and Hidatsa, those are tribes in North Dakota, but I'm a third generation Urban Indian. So for three generations, you haven't lived on our traditional territory.

So I'm just really honored to be on the Coast Salish land and learning from amazing teachers and being able to do this work.

But as you know, as an Urban Indian, we don't always have access to our ancestral knowledge like we need to, and so it’s a process to find the teachers that can get you the knowledge that you're trying to learn. 



As Kimberly continues to learn and develop her own weaving skills, she’s made it a priority to share what she learns, making it easier for others to gain access to Indigenous knowledge.



As an Indigenous woman, it's really important to teach and learn together, and so I wanted to use this opportunity to bring other folks into the studio and learn about this process.

Because I am not a cattail expert, but I want to learn this plant knowledge and reawaken it. And for whoever wants to participate or whoever's mastered it, like I want us all to be together.



Kimberly’s desire for us all to learn together reminded us of the story of Fujitaro Kubota. Upon returning from internment, he could have chosen to write off his neighbors, city, and those caught up in the racism and fear that led to his internment.Instead, the Kubota family stewarded a garden over the course of generations, for everyone’s benefit. Through this act of care, they broadened our perspective, and gifted us something that we can only strive to deserve. 

Hearing Kimberly talk about reawakening knowledge and sharing it with the non-Native community, feels like a similar gift. We can choose to ignore it, or downplay its significance. For those of us who are non-Native, we can also choose to take that knowledge and appropriate it, use it for our personal gain. Or, we can learn to listen, to leave ourselves open to a new way of operating, to step back and to hear the Old Songs that this place has been longing to hear. 



Our leaders and the environmental and conservation work, who are mostly white men are going to have to step back and they have stepped down. And they're going to have to, like, let Indigenous people lead and let Black men lead and let and let there be that voice that has been missing for so long. And what I try to remind people about that work is that ultimately it’s so effective. 



People who are continuously survivors, who are continuous teachers, who are continuous culture supporters you know, sometimes understanding that there was a connection in our suffering and as well as a connection with it within our cultural love and appreciation for what we come from and what we are. And putting down no one else's culture but in talking in particular about who was here first, and first sometimes matters.

It's not a game, but respecting what was here so that you don't miss treat who’s still the ancestors of what you're looking at.

You know, like you said Colleen was talking about before it's like, cause she was saying relatives she mentioned the word relative will mention the word ancestors in Black culture.

When she went mentioned relatives and just watching her and looking at it and going, there's this mutual respect that is needed.

So it makes me want to be more respectful in what the practices of what it was I used to do, you know, speaking to the moon at night, when I can see it if there's no pollution, speaking to the sun during the day, when I can see it, because I'm waking up to a new day, I'm going to sleep another night. Those things are constant. Those went out when all else fails in your life you know they're there, because things are in order.



Knowing that they're there and respecting that they’re gonna be there. Yeah, I think that's important. You know, Seattle I think has a unique energy about it that is different from most cities, ‘cause of the Native foundation that is here.

I think that there's a connection to nature that other places necessarily don't have. I think it's very strong. I think it's very prominent. 

To hear a Native person speak about the history and about the legacy and about the foundation that they established in this area, I think, provides a strong understanding for why this area is the way it is, why it's so green. You know why there's so much water you know, why it’s so hilly and mountainous.

And you know, it goes back to where Felicia is talking about with survival. You know, when you talk to most Native folks from this area, they always seem to go back to their connection to where they started from, like, what's their origin? And I think the origin of things play a big role here in the Northwest, you know, “where do you come from? What Tribe you from? What does that mean? What does that represent?” And I think that plays a big role in how the Natives of this particular area looked at and respected. 



I think for me, that applies in so many different systems or like, fractals, maybe like you look at a Fern, and a Fern has this giant beautiful leaf. And then they have other leaves that look like tiny little ferns. And then their leaves look like tiny little ferns. And it goes on and on forever and ever.

And I think about working across difference in that way, right? Like we exist within a larger system, and then there's systems within the system. And so I tend to focus my energy on changing the system when it comes to the intersection of environment and racial justice, and economic justice, and I think that my approach and my advice would be one to recognize past hurts and harms.

That's really important to people. We can't just pretend that stuff didn't happen. We can't pretend that mass genocides didn't happen. We can't pretend that a system based on race doesn't exist. Because we live in that system, and we perpetuate it in unintentional ways and in intentional ways.

And so I think an important part is recognize past harms, acknowledge them. And then find the folks that have been directly impacted by that harm, and work in solidarity with them.

So it doesn't mean offering your own solutions. It doesn't mean taking over projects or writing policy for people. It means being in community with people and coming up with the solutions together in ways that are appropriate.

That is a piece of advice I would give and then, celebrate. Celebrate the successes. and celebrate the wins and bring joy to the work. I think that if we were always working on our issues in a really serious way, we're actually replicating systems of oppression. You have to have joy.

And think about like, my family's like if we're like an all out family brawls, okay, there's disagreement, there's arguing, and then we make fun of ourselves. And we laugh, because in the scheme of things, you know, there's just so much more, that brings us together and then drives us apart.



We spoke with Running Grass, Director of Three Circles Center for Multicultural Environmental Education, to ask his advice on how to work through past traumas and begin building our vision for 2070. Three Circles is an international network that introduces, encourages, and cultivates multicultural perspectives and values in an environmental and outdoor education, recreation and interpretation. 



That kind of forward thinking is really necessary. This is what I often see, it's like, “Well, what the past is the past that we don't have to deal with that what we're doing is creating a new world.”

But I don't mean to, to weigh someone down to the past or to history, but we have to know how we got here in order to really think and do our way out of this into something that is more progressive and more humane and more healthy and then realigns and recalibrates our relationship with the natural world.

I think this has been the core problem with the mainstream environmental perspective about things is that it sort of it is, sees itself as really ahistorical in a way, that we don't really have to attend to a past, the historical past, especially a historical past that we don't think is ours.

If it's somebody else's, if it's Native past, or African American past, you know, or woman past or whatever it happens to be, we don't really have to deal with that, because, you know, we're happy in our own little circle of the ecology. And it's from there that we're building our future.

And I think that that's the problem. So embracing all of our all of our histories and herstories and all of our lives and understanding, coming to grips with it in terms of apologies, reparations, whatever. Other countries have done this, other societies have done this. We have some real blocks in coming to grips with the past that has created our present and that really is pre-creating our futures if we don't deal with it.



We asked Running Grass how our broader community might embrace Coast Salish history.



For one thing, there should be a lot more recognition and support for Tribal sovereignty and Indigenous people throughout Puget Sound area and throughout, you know, Washington State, the whole Cascadia. That needs to be continued to be brought to the forefront of our consciousness of where we are living, you know, and who the original inhabitants of this land and the kind of sovereignties, multiple sovereignties that are due to people and to which people have never ultimately never really given up perhaps.

There are tremendous progressive movements along the West Coast and around Seattle. And we need to understand why these developed, what were the issues, labor rights, civil rights, Tribal rights, sovereignty, as all of us need to understand things outside of our own racial background or racial histories or cultural histories or, you know, growing up on East Coast, but we're here now whatever it happens to be.

We need to sort of move beyond what has been our comfort level of the areas that we have lived within and understand that there are deeper histories here that we need to become aware of.



Move beyond our comfort level. 

Recognize past harms.

Walk in solidarity with those directly impacted. 

Work across difference.

Lift up Indigenous knowledge systems. 

Recognize and support Tribal Sovereignty. 

Plant native foods. 

Celebrate and bring joy to the work. 

Perhaps this is how we’ll reach our vision for the year 2070. 


Indigenous knowledge systems should be lifted up as a way to encourage and sustain environmental justice. 

Like the Ceremony that took place in the alley behind Chief Seattle Club, not all Indigenous knowledge is meant to be shared with non-Native people. 

But like the Strong Woman song, some sentiments transcend language and time. 

We’ll be back in Part 2 of Sing the Old Songs, to explore an example of leading with Indigenous knowledge systems at Eagle Village, where Chief Seattle Club is turning concrete into a medicine garden. 

We’ll also hear from food system strategist Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe, on how our city can know it’s role as an ally while also being mindful of the historical protocols of the First People of this land. 

Join the conversation on Instagram at Growing Old Project. Learn more at Growing Old Project dot com. 



Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.

way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.


Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.

way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.


Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.

way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.


Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hey ya hey yo.

Way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.

way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo way hey ya oh way hey ya way hey ya way hi yo.



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.