Testimony to Eugene City Council in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Monday, March 14, 2016

Hello, I am Joshua Skov, Ward 1. I’m here to speak in support of the City’s official recognition Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Thank you, to the youth and elders here tonight, who have spoken so powerfully. I am here in support of you.

I grew up in the south Puget Sound area of Washington State, and one of my earliest memories is of a salmon bake, a fundraiser to help save the Nisqually Delta, a rare tidal wetland. The delta is where the Nisqually River flows into Puget Sound, and the river originates in the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Rainier. The river and delta are the historic land of the Nisqually people. The area is now a national wildlife refuge and a federally recognized Indian reservation.

I now know and appreciate that I grew up on the land and water of the Nisqually people, and the Squaxin people, and others in Puget Sound. But I have come to understand this only as an adult. It was not part of my cultural experience growing up in Olympia, it wasn’t taught to me school, and it wasn’t routinely acknowledged and celebrated as part of our history in that community.

I believe that creating a regular acknowledgment and celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be a powerful symbolic and substantive step toward a better, stronger community for everyone.

Now, you are accustomed to hearing me speak on climate and on broader issues of sustainability. Sustainability is just a simultaneous commitment to the present and the future. And people tend to share that commitment when they have a sense of history and a sense of place. Indeed, indigenous peoples have been some of the strongest, clearest voices in support of strong and immediate action on climate change.

One way that my wife and I have attempted to share that sense of history and place with our young daughters is to make sure that they know they are growing up on Kalapuya land and water. And that we as a family honor those who came before us where we live.

One hope I have for my children is that they grow up in a community that celebrates its past, its full past. I want it to be normal for all kids here to know they are on Kalapuya land, and that the community honors that past.

First of all, it is right and just, it is what we should and must do — for all of the reasons you have heard so eloquently this evening. And because when it’s normal to celebrate and show reverence for those who came before, it plants the seed in young minds that somebody will be here later too — and that our actions have impacts in our lives and beyond, and that we might want to get things rights for those people who will be here later. That sounds like the kind of community we all want.

Volunteer Donate Subscribe