I was tagged in a Facebook post today because it was related to the concept of Cascadia and due to my work as a bioregionalist in the bioregion known by some as Cascadia. The post by Brian McCracken (who organized the Cascadia Regional Poetry Slam, part of the last Cascadia Poetry Festival) was:
and in the thread that followed, he noted:
Brian Koyote McCracken Yes… [Cascadia is] a young and nebulous movement. Ultimately the shape it takes moving forward will emerge from those who participate.
I think the concept of bioregionalism is very valuable, and important. It certainly makes more sense than modern nation states with their arbitrary borders determined by war and conquest. At the same time we should remember that we settlers are the conquerors, and any borders we draw carry the legacy of that violence. I believe I am a settler and this land does not belong to me, but we can take guidance and leadership from its 1st peoples. I still don’t know the “how” of that but would like to learn.
Brian Koyote McCracken Paul, if you’d care to comment on the above discussion I’d really love to hear your perspective. I know you have reached out to indigenous people in your work with bioregional poetry, but i don’t know much of your work beyond the festival.
Whats your take on the nature if racism in the PNW? What do you think Cascadia’s role is currently and should be in regards to native sovereignty, racism, and mass deportations?
I am making this a post so that, hopefully, the depth of bioregionalism can be understood by those who are opening to such an understanding and to elaborate on some of our commitment to justice and understanding. There are those who are closed who are going to find fault with anything you do and I do enough unpopular things, so I don’t need the extra suffering, but consider Brian a friend (& collaborator) and will also post this in the thread so he (& the others in the conversation) can see my thoughts.
He writes: It certainly makes more sense than modern nation states with their arbitrary borders determined by war and conquest. That fact alone should be reason enough for any sane person to support the concept, but there’s a lot more than that, which I hope will become apparent as I write. Maybe not. He also says: At the same time we should remember that we settlers are the conquerors, and any borders we draw carry the legacy of that violence.
First, I don’t see the demarcations of Cascadia as “borders.” I am not advocating secession, but a deeper relationship to place and a recognition of the qualities (good and bad) of the culture here. Not long after I moved here from the Midwest (1988) where I grew up, I met an Indigenous man named Beaver Chief. I had the good fortune to interview him a couple of times and at the first SPLAB in Auburn (14 S. Division) we created a Sacred Circle which featured him and many other Indian Doctors as he called himself, to lead the gathered in song, storytelling and deep sharing. We called it “In The Spirit of Beaver Chief” and conducted that event every week for a few years. Beaver Chief told the gathered there often that the Pacific Northwest (a name for this region that is U.S.-centric, as Vancouver, BC, is Southwest Canada) has been known as a stronghold of spiritual medicine. He said people think they relocate here for a job or for a relationship, but they are all coming here for spiritual reasons. It might be easier to WAKE UP here or STAY WOKE here because of the amount of wilderness left here and the quality of it and the intelligence of it opposed to what settlers and their some of their descendants would call inanimate such as plants and mountains.
Secondly, the area that is known by some as Cascadia has boundaries that are created by nature. Mountains, on the east, as the Continental Divide, where water either flows to the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific, is one such example. British Columbia should have probably been drawn up that way, but David McCloskey, to whom we owe a great deal of debt and gratitude once told me his guess was that the line-drawers wanted to include hydro power in BC.
Back to Brian:
I know you have reached out to indigenous people in your work with bioregional poetry, but i don’t know much if your work beyond the festival…
I think my comment above gives some sense of that commitment, and there are many other indigenous people I’ve interviewed over the years, including Cheryl Seidner of the Wiyot Tribe, whose people suffered one of the most – if not THE most heinous act in the history of Cascadia. Also, E. Richard Atleo, a hereditary Chief of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribe (Clayoquot Sound, BC), Jewell James on the fight against coal trains and most recently, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, a brilliant Vancouver artist, who says that the province named BC should be renamed and that settlers should pay indigenous people for EVERYTHING they enjoy in this bioregion, including clouds and rainbows.
At SPLAB events we’ve taken on the Vancouver poetry custom of acknowledging that we are creating events on the ancestral homeland of the Duwamish/Muckleshoot and other Coastal Salish tribes, work to have an indigenous presence at our fests and encourage people to discover their own inherent indigenousity, which we all have, some closer to the surface than others. A deep connection to place is big part of any indigenous culture and I am betting people here will be more likely to fight for Cascadia, than to fight the wars of the U.S. government. (I will not speak for Canada.) The oil tanker/coal train issue is one example and we may be facing our own Dakota Access Pipeline issue here before long.
I was trained as a Broadcaster, getting my B.A. in Communications in 1983 from Columbia College, working in radio professionally from 1980 to 2006, and conducting over 500 interviews since 1990. I am currently trying to save my archives, much of which is on reel-to-reel and in danger of being unusable.
In addition, we’ve worked very hard to include all kinds of voices in our SPLAB work, investing time and effort in poets like Wanda Coleman, Ethelbert Miller, Nate Mackey, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Adrian Castro, José Kozer, Eileen Myles, &c &c &c. Also, look at the Cascadia anthology we created, Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia and see the diverse voices, styles and the openness of the work there.
Is there racism in Cascadia? Of course there is. Racism is everywhere. It is what our children are taught in subtle and not so subtle ways. It is within each of us and we ignore it at our own peril, like the evil within us that when not recognized turns into administrations like the one now taking power in the U.S.
Is Cascadia where “all oppressed groups of white people can be free”? Perhaps. That they can be free is a good thing, I think. Is that freedom at the expense of indigenous people? No, real freedom means all people are free. When asked to give 150 words on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by Marcus Green of the South Seattle Emerald, one of the King quotes I included was: Don’t overlook “the physical extermination of the American Indian.” Everything that is bad on this continent is colored by that fact. Period.
It’s easy to criticize something, but REAL criticism involves a willingness to work to fix something, otherwise there is some other agenda and usually not a good one, it has been my experience. If the Cascadia movement is to catch on, it will be a diverse movement, but like you said: It certainly makes more sense than modern nation states with their arbitrary borders determined by war and conquest. That is good enough for me.
More on bioregionalism from my 1992 interview with Peter Berg here:
PN: …Tell us about the Planet Drum Foundation, what they espouse and what they do to further the concepts of living a sustainable life-style.
PB: Planet Drum was formed in 1974 to be an ecological educational organization with the purpose of creating consciousness about bioregions. Bioregion is a way of looking at the place where you live as an organic whole. People often do this about wilderness areas they talk about the ecology of a wilderness area, but people don’t talk about the ecology of the Cascadia Bioregion with Seattle in it, say, unless they have a bioregional perspective. And that….in your area that is the way it’s referred to. The Ish River Bioregion in the greater Cascadia Nation or Country. And bioregion then is all the natural systems that operate in a place, including urban areas, and how people can fit into them rather than obstruct or destroy them.
and as much of my audio interview archive online as possible at: