Kwina Buliding on Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington.
Published October 21, 2018
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) Salish Sea Research Center (SSRC) on the Lummi campus was awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support community-driven research in marine sciences. The grant, “Restoring the Salish Sea: Food Sovereignty and Clean Water in the Pacific Northwest,” partners with Lummi Natural Resources (LNR) and forms a network of collaborators, establishing a Tribal Advancement Enterprise (TEA) Center for Community Marine Research.
This collaborative project will focus on community-driven issues related to environmental impacts on the Salish Sea that affect Coast Salish peoples. “It’s not just a butter clam today that we’re researching, it’s the cultural significance and what we did as a people and how we ate it and why we cut off the siphon or nose tip, gills, and why we didn’t eat the insides, because we knew inherently over centuries that those were the bad parts of the clam. So we’re trying to bring this research in and from the Salish Sea,” Dave Oreiro said. The research done at the College confirms the scientific reasoning for the cultural preparations of the clam—the discarded parts are where the toxins lie. This research not only bridges cultural knowledge and current scientific knowledge, but it can also be used to drive resource management plans.
The TEA Center gives time, resources, and space to facilitate collaborative research drawing from local expertise to produce the next generation of Indigenous scholars who will serve as decision-makers and intellectual resources for their tribes and communities. With several reports related to the declining health of the Salish Sea, including the recent Atlantic Salmon spill, the death of the Southern Resident Orca Whale Scarlet (J35), and Telaquah’s (J50) 17-day plight after her orca calf died within a half hour of being born, this fulfills a time-sensitive need.