Wilbur Slockish: Teach Non-Natives to ‘Reconnect to the Land’

Wilbur Slockish (Klickitat, Yakama) talks about a conversation he had in prison that reshaped the way he looked at cultural relations. 1:32.

Bio: Wilbur Slockish was one of several men who were arrested along with David Sohappy for “illegally” fishing and selling their fish in a case known as “Salmon Scam”. (https://www.nwcouncil.org/history/SalmonScam) He was born in 1944 in Wapato, Washington and is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. As a boy, he fished at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. After Slockish was released from prison, he concentrated his efforts on water quality and health issues related to the Hanford Nuclear Power Plant. In 1994, Slockish fought and successfully banned the storage of Hanford nuclear waste on the Yakama Reservation.


“I got told this by one man in prison for that Wounded Knee occupation. They were gonna do another study on our people. His name was Hobart Garneau, and we were sitting there, and I was talking with him, and I said, ‘God, they like to do studies on our people.’ I said, ‘I wish they would conduct a study of what we did so wrong to be punished with their presence.’ He turned and looked at me, ‘Youngster, did you ever stop to think maybe He sent them over here for us to teach them? Look what they have done to their places in Europe. Look how they devastated their lands, their potato famines. Degrading the water system. All of the diseases that they have over there. Maybe he sent them over here for us to teach them to reconnect to the land again, because of what it provides us. Because they have lost that connection to the land.’ And I thought about that. So that’s why I do a lot of public education, I do a lot of that. Based on his words. They need to remember: the land means something. Not just free market extraction”

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