Climate Pledge Arena presents ‘Land and Peoples Acknowledgement’ statement at gathering of Native leaders, announces commissioned art for Kraken Community Iceplex and Climate Pledge Arena
By Bob Condor
In the same space where Kraken General Manager Ron Francis learned via NHL lottery that Seattle would be picking second overall in this summer’s amateur draft, leaders from Salish tribes and other Native organizations met recently for a lunch and an inclusive dialogue.
Over frybread tacos, kale salad and quinoa succotash, the main objective of the gathering was to share and receive feedback around various initiatives the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena have been working on to engage with and amplify the stories and voices of Native peoples.
This August’s lunch was itself a follow-up to a similar event two summers ago when team officials including CEO Tod Leiweke and Vice President of Community Engagement and Social Impact Mari Horita invited Native leaders together to brainstorm how the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena (both unnamed back then) could best support and engage our Native community.
Following the 2019 lunch, the Kraken hired members of Pyramid Communications’ Indian Country group to help put ideas and aspirations into action, and to do so in a way that centered the voices of the Native community. Among the outcomes was the crafting of a Land and Peoples Acknowledgement, developed over six months, with input from a number of Coast Salish Tribal leaders, including Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe since 2005.
Forsman urged the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena to add “Peoples” to what is typically a land acknowledgement.
“It was just a suggestion,” Forsman said at the recent lunch, smiling among his peers.
But Forsman’s addition clearly resonated.
Andrea Wilbur-Sigo was the first speaker at this month’s lunch, a Native American master carver and active member and educator of the Squaxin Tribe. Wilbur-Sigo is one of seven Native artists hired in connection with the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena. She discussed her commission from the NHL franchise to create a welcoming art piece at the entryway of Kraken Community Iceplex.
Wilbur-Sigo’s work will feature seven large paddles (representative of seven generations of ancestors and the next seven future generations, plus the traditional canoe journey) and one hockey stick (“the eighth generation,” says the artist, and, yes, she did make a connection to tentacles).
Everyone venturing to see the Kraken practice or to skate themselves or partake in so many other planned activities at the new training center will see the paddles and stick.
“When I was approached about this job,” said Wilbur-Sigo, “the first thing that got may attention was climate pledge aspect [of carbon-zero Climate Pledge Arena]. That is exactly part of our daily thoughts and activity. It is not something we teach our kids in a classroom. They have a responsibility to know [about caring for the planet]. I try to do that with my art.”
Wilbur-Sigo started her five minutes of sharing by presenting her ancestry, naming several tribes and pledging she is “doing my best to represent all of you.” She was happy to report her view of progress, noting Tulalip Tribes artist Ty Juvenil is creating a piece for inside the Kraken Community Iceplex.
“Twenty-five years ago, it was hard to get Salish work out there [in public spaces],” said Wilbur-Sigo. “Fifteen years ago I am not sure our work was understood … Now we’re here and these pieces are going up [the Iceplex opens to the public in September].”
Juvenil’s carving will present his interpretation of the Kraken’s secondary anchor brand mark and it will hang in the hallway inside the Kraken Community Iceplex.
“We are putting our heritage up,” Juvenil said when presenting at the luncheon. “In our own voice and words … I can’t be more proud of this team. The Kraken wants the meaning to come through. It’s more than symbolic gesture.”
In presenting the Land and Peoples’ Acknowledgement, on display via large screen for the U-shaped table of leaders to see while enjoying that lunch from Off the Rez Truck and Café Horita echoed Ty’s comment about symbolism.
“So often these statements are performative and perfunctory,” said Horita. “People say and hear the words without understanding what they mean or why they’re being said.
“The words are just the starting point. It is our job to ensure they have real impact, for our Native community and for those of us not in the Native community who have so much to learn.”
Here’s the statement the leaders were reviewing and discussing:
Land and Peoples Acknowledgement Statement
Climate Pledge Arena acknowledges that we are on the homelands of the Coast Salish peoples, who continue to steward these lands and waters as they have since time immemorial. We recognize Washington’s tribal nations and Native organizations, who actively create, shape and contribute to our thriving communities.
Climate Pledge Arena is committed to doing our part to engage with, and amplify the voices of, Native peoples and tribes.
“The statement needs a call to action,” said Temryss Lane, Lummi Native and director of Pyramid’s Indian Country practice. “We have the opportunity to extend this message beyond [from Climate Pledge Arena and Kraken Community Iceplex] to digital spaces. One priority is to engage Native youth.”
Both the Kraken and One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena, are committed to creating opportunities to engage in skating and hockey on and off the ice.
“We are working to get young people to the rinks,” said Eric Pettigrew, Kraken VP of Government Relations and Outreach, during a presentation about youth hockey and figure skating programs that will provide access and equipment to kids as needed. “We intend to more than just develop hockey players.
“We ultimately want to help develop good people who know what happened before them and who will work hard to move the next generation forward.”
Denise Stiffarm, an inaugural One Roof board member who served many years in a similar role with Chief Seattle Club, said she the luncheon’s “intentions and action to engage blew me away.”
“From the first gathering I had an appreciation for the thoughtfulness on how to involve the Native community,” said Stiffarm, a partner at Pacifica Law Group, an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre (A’aninin/White Clay) Tribe of Montana and an active Urban Indian community member here in town. “Native people are still very present and the Acknowledgement exposes that Native people are here.”
“I am excited to see the involvement with the youth [Native and all BIPOC], to really invest the time and resources. There are so many urban Natives in Seattle from all around the country.”
Lawrence Solomon, chairman of the Lummi Nation, started the luncheon with a song that moved every person in the space.
“These songs are not just songs,” said Solomon. “They are prayers in our hearts for our communities and a prayer in hearts for Mother Earth. It is called ‘Survivor’s Song.’ “
Solomon translated the Lummi lyrics for the group: “My highly respected people … we come from the survivors of the Great Flood … we come together my Indian people and stand strong … I am a survivor of the Great Flood.”
“I felt great emotion with that blessing,” said Tod Leiweke, introducing the luncheon’s purpose. “We want our fans to feel the same thing at each and every home game.”
Ty Juvenil, for one, looks forward to NHL action at Climate Pledge Arena. He is a long-time hockey fan and a regular at the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips games.
Seattle is such a big sports town,” said Juvenil after the day’s event winded down. “We know that from the 12th man. It’s going to be an amazing NHL town too.”