Our group is called Indie Hit Designs, my name is Ryan and this fundraiser is for all of the Indigenous communities we want to help and bring Unity to. My Indigenous name is Saa Taan Eesh and my tribal heritage is Tlingit and Coahuiltecan. I grew up on the Lower Elwha Klallam Reservation, where the Elwha River meets the Salish Sea, learning the teachings of my Tlingit ancestors from my great-grandparents, uncle and relatives. Our land is the generational home of the Charles family of the Klallam people (Strong People).
After leaving home I began to process the forced complacency of our Indigenous peoples to a western way of life. I learned how the cycle of poverty on the reservation – FEMA housing, poor water quality and unhealthy food – perpetuate a lifestyle that removes us from our traditions and health. I have set out to do something about it, and my team needs your help.
With your support this project will develop ecologically sustainable food systems and build traditional holistic housing in honor of my family’s legacy. As the Salmon are returning to our river for the first time in 100 years we feel the resilience of this place which symbolizes the resilience of our people and thus we are calling this first radically sustainable house “The Return of the Run.”
(See “Why The Elwha” below to learn about the return of our salmon, river and beach and how it informs our work.)
“The Return of The Run”, is a vision my family holds for our land, and last year I returned to the Elwha to build a fireplace, an organic garden, an outdoor cob oven, an onsite composting system, a Tarpee, an open-air kitchen and a camping area for volunteers. Now, we are building a single-family longhouse made of straw-bales and cobb, a natural building material made of soil, sand, clay and straw. This single family home will feature modern amenities, passive solar architecture, renewable energy, water conservation technology and the display of two culturally significant story poles made by myself, Klallam carvers and the greater community. This house will be a space for a chosen family to practice cultural revitalization and will, through its development, build an ecologically sustainable framework for our return to the land and our traditions. This project is a catalyst for holistic housing projects in communities across Indigenous country where my people can wake up and go to sleep the way our ancestors did.
We have identified five additional properties across Indigenous Country that are available to have traditional sustainable housing developed on them as we gain capacity through support from allies like you.
It is my family’s legacy to pass this land on in a good way. In addition to housing we will develop healthy food systems, incorporate renewable energy and create spaces for learning and sharing together.
Why The Elwha:
Our river was the spawning ground of the largest salmon in the world! And my family has called the land along this river home since we were displaced here. Our family watched two dams go up, forcefully cutting off the spawning grounds of all seven species of salmon. The sediment the river brought out to the sea was trapped behind the dams and in turn the beach receded and with it the populations of shellfish and birds until there were almost no wild beach lands left for us.
Against great hardships my family continued the cultural traditions of our ancestors. Here we practiced traditional subsistence fishing, kept horses, foraged berries and hosted family gatherings. Now, after much advocacy, we watched the removal of two dams and for the first time in 100 years watching the salmon return to their traditional spawning grounds on the river. We see the returning wild beach as a reminder of the first salmon ceremony returning the salmon on the cedar, back to the sea. It’s through the interdependence between the cedar and salmon we acknowledging we are connected to this land and to one another.
How will the funds be used?
- Sustainable building supplies
- Gardening tools and supplies
- Plumbing and composting systems
- Subsidized solar and wind-turbines
- Operational and administrative expenses
My uncle, Doug Charles, passed away on October 28, 2016, at the age of 79, from cancer. Doug was born in Pysht, WA on the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Walter Novak and Emma Jane Charles. He was a member of the Lower Elwha Veterans Chapter, the Laborers No. 242 in Seattle, and a commercial fisherman. He served on the Lower Elwha Business Committee and the Fisheries Committee. Doug left behind his wife of 50 years, Roberta (Bobbie), and a legacy of generosity and love. He encouraged and enjoyed the idea of building, and teaching others how to build, ecologically sustainable communities. This project is for him.