Indigenous Voices Panel

I recently attended the Indigenous Voices Panel at the North American Permaculture Convergence in Hopland, California.  There was a big crowd to hear the panel. We want to do an Indigenous Voices Panel at NWPCC and are looking for nominations of who to invite to be on the panel.  Besides the Port Gamble S’Klallam, we are currently talking to people at the Lummi Northwest Indian College, the Squaxin Tribe Garden manager, Susan Balbas at the Na-ah Illahee Fund, HeIdi Bohan and others.  This is still coming together.

Tribal people who will be attending include:
Elaine Grinnell, well-known Jamestown S’Klallam elder and storyteller will have a storytelling session on Saturday.
William John, Lummi Tribal elder and member.
Ane Berrett, Director of Service Learning, Social Science Faculty, Northwest Indian College, Lummi Nation. Also Ane’s husband who is a Lummi elder.
MarCia McBride McGee, Human Development Faculty, Northwest Indian College. Choctaw Nation and pdc grad.
Kezia Wentworth of the Squaxin Tribe Community Garden will present about tribal food sovereignty on Sunday.

 [Here are some preliminary thoughts on the panel.  The panelists will have the final say.]

We are proposing that the panel address the topic of how can permaculture people and Native Americans learn from each other and support each other. How can this be a two-way street?  We both benefit.  For example, permaculturists can benefit from learning about the indigenous worldview and whatever traditional ways you’d care to share and tribal members can benefit from our gardening and affordable housing knowledge and so forth. The permaculture movement has a lot of practical information. [Perhaps there could be set up a pro bono group of permaculture designers who could consult with tribes where asked?]  What is the right protocol and attitude for permaculturists to work with tribes? What sort of joint trainings or projects are possible?

Permaculture strategies and techniques include traditional knowledge from indigenous people worldwide.  What is the fine line between appropriate use and cultural appropriation? Permaculture should always give credit to where the knowledge came from.  What about compensation? What messages would the panelists like to deliver to the permaculture audience?  How can we work together for mutual benefit and for Mother Earth?
The panel will be moderated by Heidi Bohan. Heidi is known and respected in Northwest tribal communities. Her book The People of Cascadia (which was reviewed by tribal members and cultural experts) depicts the daily life of the four major cultural groups in the Pacific Northwest. Heidi is also familiar with permaculture.

Background information:

It is permaculture’s aim to give culturally specific courses to indigenous people so that they can pick and choose what they want and pass the information on in their own culture and their own language. This has been happening to some extent in Indian America (and to a much larger extent internationally). For example, Penny Livingston-Stark just gave a Native American permaculture design course in Bishop, California for the Paiute and other tribes. Perhaps there could be such a course in the Pacific Northwest. Nine Native woman with the Na-ah Illahee Fund are currently taking the OSU on-line permaculture course with Marisha Auerbach. They have all been invited to attend the NWPCC. 

We realize that not all permaculturists are good quality designers and we realize that many individuals and the movement (to some extent) need decolonizing. Native Americans (and people in general) should be cautious about permaculturists with great white savior attitudes.   

An invitation to Native Americans

On October 7, 8, 9, the 9th Northwest Permaculture Convergence is being held at Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island, Salish Sea).  We would like to extend a welcoming hand and offer free admission to S'Klallam, Makah, Suquamish, Swinomish, Skokomish, Lummi, members of other local tribes. We also offer free admission to members of other North or South America tribes. A small token of our appreciation for tribal stewardship of the lands and waters and in acknowledgement for the losses your people have had to suffer through. 

There will be many educational workshops, skill-sharings and discussions on topics relating to living on the land in a good way. Permaculture includes growing food, ecology, renewable energy, natural building, herbal medicine, natural resource management and many other topics on how to live without exploiting people or Mother Earth.  Admission also includes meals.

We are planning an Indigenous Voices Panel for Native people to give their viewpoints and are looking for tribal people to speak on the panel. 

The event runs from 6:00 pm on Friday to 4:00 pm Sunday.  We are expecting over 500 people and over 100 workshops. Details on our website.

Permaculture is a worldwide movement and has a long history of working with indigenous people in Australia, Africa the Americas and other parts of the world. Best wishes to all indigenous people. May the oppression end.

If you’d like to be on the Native American will-call list send your name to

Michael Pilarski, Event Coordinator

PS. We also support and stand with our Earth tribe in Standing Rock, North Dakota. .  We will have a booth at the NWPCC to educate people about Standing Rock and to collect supplies to deliver to Standing Rock in November. We care.