Students at Pacific Lutheran University had the opportunity to learn about local Native American tribes in the South Puget Sound area March 20.
Suzanne Crawford-O’Brien, associate professor of religion and culture, gave a powerpoint presentation titled “Healing Landscapes: Wellness and
Place in Coast Salish Religion and Culture” to a crowd of about 100 students and faculty.
The event took place in the Scandinavian Cultural Center and Marit Trelstad, the head of the religion department, organized it.
O’Brien, who specializes in Native American religious traditions and religious diversity in North America, said her seminar is meant to explore the intersection of place and wellbeing among the Coast Salish — Coast Salish is an ethnographic designation of Native American cultures who speak one of the Coast Salish languages — and considers how places can act as sources of healing.
“Initially I was unsure about how the lecture would go,” senior Nichole Thompson said. “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take anything away from it that would be relevant to my life, but once the event started, I was really impressed with the content.”
O’Brien’s lecture focused on the Coast Salish peoples of Washington and Oregon.
O’Brien spoke about everything from local creation stories to early Native American architecture still used in a lot of structures today.
According to the Snohomish, their ancestors are descended directly from the chum salmon of the Pacific Northwest. Every year the people perform a “salmon ritual” to celebrate the fish, who they say are the givers of life.
Tribal members go fishing and they cook the first salmon they catch. After every tribe member has eaten a piece of the fish, the remaining bones are sent down river where they believe the fish will be reincarnated.
Salish people also have a great respect for nature, especially Mt. Rainier because it has provided them with water and vegetation.
“The presentation led me to reflect on my current position within nature,” junior Janae Reinhardt said. “[O’Brien] was super captivating.” ◼︎