American Indian Movement: Save the Salmon, Save the Water, Save the People

Suquamish Vice-Chairman Bardow Lews, Chairman Leonard Forsman, Dennis Banks, Masao Yamamoto

Published September 11, 2017

SUQUAMISH INDIAN RESERVATION — American Indian Movement (AIM) founder, Dennis Banks, recently visited the Suquamish Tribe, located in Washington State. Masao Yamamoto, the founder of the Mother Earth Tour (MET) accompanied Banks on this visit.

Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman, and the entire Suquamish Nation warmly welcomed AIM, and MET. While addressing those in attendance at the Suquamish Museum luncheon Dennis said, “We are related, we are all children of this planet that we call Mother Earth. We can still sing, and share the good feelings, and that’s the beauty. We can still embrace, and watch over one another.” Dennis spoke of his admiration for the changes that Chairman Leonard Forsman has brought.

Chairman Forsman detailed the pride he felt at the positive changes his tribe has accomplished.

“It was great to have the Mother Earth Tour come back to Suquamish, they were last here in 2008. I think the most powerful thing to me, was all the growth that we’ve had since the first time Dennis Banks came out with Masao Yamamoto. At that time, we were in the middle of a large cultural resurgence within our community. We were working on hosting the 2009 Canoe Journey, here in Suquamish. We were also in the middle of constructing our new dock, and new house of culture, and finding our cultural footing. It was an inspiration for him to come out and support that, and just his presence here gave us more power and strength to keep moving on. Knowing that we were doing the right thing, by making the commitments that we were,” said Forsman.

Forsman has been the catalyst for positive change. Masao Yamamoto expressed his respect for all the work Forsman has done for his tribe. He said: “I’ve had many wonderful experiences at Suquamish. They are retaining their old culture, that is wonderful! They should continue their efforts to keep the environment clean, and safe for all living things, to preserve the environment of Mother Earth.”

We were honored to participate in Chief Seattle Days. An annual event held by the Suquamish Tribe to honor Chief Seattle. I was fortunate to spend the night with the Sacred Water Canoe Families. They said they are not catching as much salmon as in the past. They preserve the salmon, so it can sustain them through the winter months. This year their members ended the fishing season early due to the lack of salmon.

For the Suquamish, the water that surrounds them is an integral part of who they are as a people. They hold their canoe races on this sacred water. They, and many neighboring native communities rely on salmon as their primary source of food. The salmon is also used for ceremonial purposes. When a person “walks on” the family typically holds a dinner, to honor the deceased.  Traditional food (salmon) and drink are typically served at these sacred ceremonies.

Unfortunately, for the Suquamish, their salmon are in danger as Leonard stated: “Right now our biggest threat is in the legislature, where the senate has been trying to propose what they call a Hirst fix. This proposed change would endanger the salmon protections that are currently in place. It would overturn the decision that was made by the State Supreme Court. So, we just want them to leave it alone. We need the State Senate to get into discussions with the tribes, and environmental community, and to come to the realization that over-appropriating water is not sustainable. They need to stop thinking about the short term, and think about the long term. We have an obligation to protect those resources as part of our commitment to preserving our way of life, and preserving those resources for future generations. We wish that the United States, and the State of Washington, and counties, and cities would take that just as seriously as we do.”

The Hirst fix, would result in appropriating water for new construction. Thereby depriving the salmon of water that they need to survive, and prosper. Removing the federal protections, is not the solution! They should leave the protections in place, and find a way to come to a resolution, that would involve compromise on both sides.

The American Indian Movement will be lending their support to many events that protect our fishing rights. Such as the spiritual journey of the “Longest Walk Save the Salmon.” The goal of this spiritual awakening is geared toward saving the salmon, the rivers, and the people of the salmon.

Longest Walk Save the Salmon are inviting all drums, clans, Nations, and their allies to join them as they walk in prayer. They are seeking a brighter future for the salmon, and the people. They will be delivering letters to the politicians along the way, as the hard won rights of Native Americans need to be upheld.

Longest Walk Save the Salmon will begin their journey in Seattle on November 1, 2017. They will conclude their spiritual walk on November 23, 2017 at the Sunrise Ceremony on Alcatraz, located in San Francisco. It will be the dawn of a new day as we continue our fight for our cultural and spiritual way of life.

For more details, please visit the Longest Walk Save the Salmon Facebook page:



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