When Science Confirms What We Already Know

Salmon fly

One of my favorite moments at the salmon conference I attended this week came when Yakama tribal elder Tony Washines greeted a crowd of policy-makers, scientists and attentive listeners. He smiled and said, “Good morning my relatives. Good morning my friends. Welcome to the homeland of our people.”

Washines set the tone for the meeting dedicated to hearing about the restoration of salmon. The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission spearheaded the 2-day meeting to shape the vision of salmon.

The speaker reminded us that many are visitors to this region, yet welcomed us with open hands and arms. Much of the underpinning of the conference is lodged in traditions, memories, histories and narratives of this corner of the world.

And science also underpins how the conference unfolded. Yet I heard no conflict between the discussions of science and Native traditions. Indeed, the science discussed was presented in service to tribal priorities and Indian-ways-of-knowing.

In his introduction, Washines told us how he learned about the salmon, the birds, the bugs and the river from his relatives. The bugs feed the birds who clean the river for the salmon to keep them healthy and strong.

Armed with this knowledge, Washines studied biology at the University, learning about bugs and birds and salmon and rivers. And I will forever remember what he said next.

Studying science at university confirmed what he learned from Native teachings.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in Indian, Native Science, salmon, science, science communication and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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