Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Inaugural Salmon Film Festival Graces Campus

Photo by (Eddie Buchko)

The inaugural Salmon Film Festival kicked off on April 12 and 13 on campus, drawing sizable crowds of community members and students with wafts of salmon cooking and the hum of conversation. The two-day festival aimed to educate and celebrate the cultures of regional Indigenous communities with film screenings, tribal speakers, cultural performances, a traditional salmon bake and ceremonies. 

Eddie Buchko


The festival launched with the salmon bake on Ankeny Field, where members of the Wanapum tribe processed and cooked salmon through traditional cooking methods, continuing with an opening ceremony and a free salmon dinner for members of the community. 

The festival featured screenings of the film “Covenant of the Salmon People” in Maxey Auditorium, two short films “The Lost Fish” and “Umatilla Youth” followed by a panel discussion with Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Youth Council, and the last film of the festival “A Reflection of Life” with a panel discussion with CTUIR, Rock Creek Band of Lower Columbia Tribes and Yakama Nation tribal members. All were films centered around environmental stewardship and conservation efforts and their connection with Native communities. 

Jeanine Gordon, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Outreach, said her role at Whitman entails ensuring that the college honors the memorandum of agreement with the CTUIR. She also works with the admissions team on outreach for the Šináata Scholarship with public schools and incorporates support systems for Native American students on campus. 

Although the Salmon Film Festival was largely a student-led event, Gordon assisted the students as they planned activities and managed the budget. She also provided input and support as organization was underway. 

Gordon describes what she hoped would be the outcomes of the festival.

“I think that it is a beautiful educational experience for the college campus. For our tribal communities, and for our non-tribal communities, to be able to experience a traditional salmon bake, and to learn about the relationship that tribal people have with salmon and related water issues around clean water and safe water for the salmon,” Gordon said. 

Gordon continued to detail the significance of salmon among Indigenous communities. 

“The traditional way that we cooked salmon is one of the old traditions that have been carried through in our cultures for years. And so there’s a very significant thing to tribal cultures. And I think all cultures in general, when you can carry a practice through multiple generations and keep it alive and keep it going. So it’s very important that way, and then being able to share, I think, how we honor the salmon and how we prepare the salmon and how we celebrate the salmon,” Gordon said.

Henry Roller, a member of the Salmon Conservation Club and a student organizer of the Salmon Film Festival, discussed how he envisioned the festival evolving and impacting the broader conversation around Indigenous rights and environmental stewardship conservation. 

“Tribes have been leading and continue to lead the effort to conserve and restore salmon. Tribes deserved to be recognized for this work, and this festival aims to honor that. We want the Salmon Film Festival to be an annual event so the Whitman community can continue to develop an understanding of the deep cultural importance that salmon have for the Plateau tribes. This understanding is critical to respect and honor the people whose lands Whitman College is located on,” Roller said in a statement to The Wire.

Gordon described the symbiotic relationship between salmon and the ecosystems that they are a part of. 

“The environmental aspect of having a healthy ecosystem and a healthy environment impacts salmon in that it’s all related. You can’t separate a healthy environment from having healthy salmon. So I think it’s related in the way that we need to have a healthy ecosystem in order to have healthy salmon in order to have that cycle continue,” Gordon said.


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *