IllumiNATURE: Songs & Stories & Art to Celebrate Salmon is Life Return from Paris/COP21

This Valentine's Day, come celebrate love of Salmon and the Earth that inspired our actions in Paris by joining us at the Duwamish Longhouse.

Be lifted by music, stories, images and video of Salmon is Life: Wisdom of the Heart.

For closing, please join us in lifting as many Salmon as we can to dance in the air.

“It’s Valentine’s Day! Let’s Spawn more heart-centered actions that speak for the Salmon People and care for the Circle of Life.” - Paul Cheoketen Wagner

There will be snacks available. Please bring your favorites to share if you'd like.

Event details:

Sunday February 14th, 2016 at the Duwamish Longhouse
map: 4705 W Marginal Way SW, Seattle, Washington 98106

Hands-on art
Batik* prayer flags together. Some flags will go to Paris, to the neighborhood where the terrorist attacks happened on 11/13/15; some will stay in Seattle. Also, salmon hat making for children.

*Batik was used to make the Salmon windSockeyes.

2:30- 4:00
Stories and song
Hear stories from our trip and listen to wisdom teachings from the Saanich people. Paul Cheoketen Wagner will play flute songs, along with the salmon. Help us fly hundreds of salmon around the Longhouse!

Open Salon
Informal conversations, videos and more art-making.

Let’s make sure what happened in Paris doesn’t stay in Paris!

To learn more about Salmon is Life and get frequent updates, please visit


Still Swimming Upstream!

January 10th, 2016 -- by Denise Henrikson

(This blog entry is cross-posted from our most recent Indiegogo update.)

The members of the Salmon is Life team have all returned to our homes around the Puget Sound and our work continues to unfold.

Last week, we posted the first of a series of videos from our journey to Paris. This video is of a wisdom teaching that Paul Cheoketen Wagner shared on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower. View the video, created by Jeff Dunnicliff, on our Facebook page.

Also last week, we sent four Salmon windSockeye to Clayoquot Action in Canada. They will take some of the Salmon with them when their delegation travels to Norway later this month to put pressure on the Norwegian salmon farming giant Cermaq.

Cermaq’s farming operations are having a disastrous impact on the wild Pacific salmon population in Clayoquot Sound. Their trip will link indigenous people from Canada and Norway, and environmental advocates from both countries. Learn more about this delegation by visiting their Indiegogo campaign.

We also made prayer flags this past week when Lisa and Denise made a presentation and hosted an art party for the Seattle Homeschool Teen Group. Some of the prayer flags we made together will be sent to the community we met our last day in Paris.

Coming up, members of the Salmon is Life team will be participating in 350 Seattle’s Race and Climate Justice Gathering on Friday, January 22nd from 6-9 pm at King Street Center, 201 S Jackson St. If you are in Seattle, please join us!

In addition, we are looking for a venue to host a night of Salmon is Life - stories, music, slides, and art. Paul calls them “spawnings” because our intent is to “spawn” heart-centered actions that speak for the Salmon People and care for the Circle of Life. We will let you know as soon as a venue and a date have been confirmed, likely in mid-February.

And, finally (!!!), we just finished carving the last block so we are printing the last design of prayer flags (Salmon, of course!) and have begun sewing strings of prayers together. We will get them in the mail to our Indiegogo contributors, along with all the other “perks!” starting next week. We appreciate their support - and their patience!


PS: If you are an Indiegogo supporter who plans to attend one of the events above, please let us know and we will bring your “perks" to you in person!


Race and Climate Justice Gathering: Report Back from the Paris COP21 Protests!

January 8th, 2016 -- by Lisa Marcus
Photo by Mona Caron

Thanks to so many of you for joining our Salmon Is Life project by donating your time, skills, creativity, money, and good energy. You made it happen, and it was powerful!

You are invited to come hear from a few of us and other awesome activists who had different experiences in Paris at the next Race and Climate Justice gathering on January 22nd (details are below). Register soon at as it's filling fast!

We'll also be doing a video presentation of our own, a "spawning" as soon as the video is finished with a more in-depth report back about our Salmon Is Life's experiences in Paris, but it will come a bit later.

We're leaping up stream together!

Race and Climate Justice Gathering: Report Back from the Paris COP21 Protests!

Friday, January 22nd
6 - 9 pm
King Street Center, 201 S Jackson St.

We have a fabulous line up of local activists who will report back on their experience of the Paris climate talk protests:

Make sure you register at soon, because space is limited and it's filling up fast. Free childcare to those who request it when you register. The event is FREE with optional donation.

Check out the event on Facebook and help spread the word!


Paris Diaries #8: Healing our World

December 13th, 2015 -- by Denise Henrikson and Lisa Marcus
Photos by Christine Castigliano

For our last day in Paris, we wanted to bring the healing beauty of the music and the salmon, and the prayers that had been gathering since the beginning of the project, to the neighborhood where the terrorist attacks had happened exactly one month before. So we took the metro to that general area and wandered the streets until 4:00 where we had scheduled to meet others at the corner of Rue Albert and Rue Bichat in District 11.

In our wanderings, we came to Place de la Republique, where the ten thousand pairs of shoes had been laid out not long ago, the day before the UN Climate talks began. There, we were moved as we approached. The entire circular base of the large center statue was covered with lit candles, photos, notes, signs, mounds of flowers - each an individual offering of love - spilling out onto the ground. People were all around in silent reverence, and off to the side others were gathered, playing music together.

From there, we walked along the canal, realizing that we'd been here before when we had gotten lost on our way to the sunrise ceremony of the Kichwa, indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. We crossed a bridge and as we walked up Rue Albert, saw, in the distance, many prayer flags were strung from balconies, criss crossing the intersection and streets.

As we got close, a similar scene unfolded to that at Place de la Republic. Many people were gathered at the intersection where two boarded up corner restaurants had mounds of flowers, and burning candles, and words, and poems, and pictures, and art. It made me think of the Swedish proverb, "Shared grief is half grief. Shared joy is double joy."

A small group of people had arranged this gathering to honor their grief and praise the people who are no longer with us, as well as to heal the community from their shared trauma; and the whole neighborhood was there, writing prayers to clip to tree branches and stapling prayer flags to hang on strings from multiple stories of balconies.

We offered to help with the flags and met a woman whose sister owns the restaurant directly across from those that had been hit. We decided to eat there to support the community. Our waiter, a warm and friendly young man, originally from the States , had been working during the attacks and he told us his story. We were struck by his willingness to be vulnerable and his faith in humanity, despite having gone through what he went through.

Some of our group went out to listen to the people gathered who were singing together in the street to close their community ritual. After dinner, we went into the intersection where an ebb and flow of people continued. As Paul played his flute and we danced with the salmon, people approached us to listen, to talk, and to dance other salmon we'd brought with us.

One woman offered us many gifts of food that she had prayed over. We met one of the other organizers of the community ritual, and gave her a salmon to hang from a balcony over the intersection. We'll be making and sending them prayer flags to add to the others as well. There was such a feeling there of love and hope.

We then walked the streets of the neighborhood, swimming the salmon in prayer to Paul's beautiful flute. Crossing the canal on high arched pedestrian bridges and making our way along its shores, the salmon danced their prayers. It was getting late and cold, and we hadn't packed yet for our morning flights home, but we chose to visit one more site.

On approaching, we knew where people had died by the candles, beautiful words, pictures, and mounds of flowers. Sitting in front of the first cafe that had reopened since the attacks a month ago, was a man from China who had brought an interactive art project called "Invitation." For the project, he would photograph people's eyes and they would write their thoughts around the photograph about what had happened. It was an exploration of humanity, driven by a question he had about how people feel and what they think, including those who commit these types of acts and those impacted. It was about the endurance of love and the healing of community.

As I was walking home, I thought about our project and what our question is… Can beauty open our hearts to experience our interconnection with each other and the other lives that share our Mother Earth?

See more images from our final day on Facebook.

(These diaries are also being posted by Yes! Magazine under the #ParisDiaries hashtag.)


Paris Diaries #7: D12 - A Day of Prayer

December 12th, 2015 -- by Denise Henrikson and the Salmon is Life Team
Photos by Christine Castigliano and Debra D'Angelo

The day started at 5:30 when the alarm went off. We had committed to creating a dawn ritual in the inner courtyard of the Louvre today. Just after sharing an invitation to join the dance through social media, we learned that the big public Red Line demonstration was happening two hours after our dance ended, at the Avenue de la Grande-Armée, a 45 minute walk away. Perfect - we’d process with the salmon from one event to the other along the Champs Elysees. From there, we’d go wherever Spirit moved us. That’s what we’ve done each day... have one or two things planned and left the rest open; the openings have led to experiences better that we could have planned or even imagined.

The moment we walked into the courtyard of the Louvre at 7:03am, a huge flock of white birds flew off the rooftops. Debra, and others whom we have met on this trip, have been having profound dreams about white birds, so we took notice. Today would likely be a day of important teachings.

Paul Cheoketen Wagner opened space with the morning blessings and the predawn blessing song. Salmon entered from the main courtyard towards the sunrise in the east. From there, we brought in the four directions, with the salmon swimming in from each arched entrance and joining together in graceful movements around a very large fountain in the center. The sunrise began to show its gentle colors and the morning light was breathtaking as the Salmon circled and danced to the sounds of Paul’s Native American flute.

After the dance, while some of the team went to get coffee and breakfast so they could be ready for the long day ahead, a nice man from Senegal came over and started talking to the few of us who had stayed with our huge pile of gear and many poles of salmon. He seemed a bit puzzled as he inquired what we were doing and kept asking lots of questions. As he saw the security guards approaching, he calmly told us that what we were doing was not allowed here and that security guards had arrived. At that moment, the iron gate to our exit shut with a clang, and four guards approached. Luckily, no gate can stop a salmon, so together, we managed to slip by and headed off to the next big event.

We regrouped across the street, danced to Paul’s flute, and attracted more salmon swimmers until we had the critical mass we needed for the procession to the Red Line. It took a lot more than 45 minutes to get there, partly because when some of our group stopped to go to the bathroom, the police surrounded us and immediately asked what we were doing, requesting our passports and telling us we were not allowed to go through the rich shopping district between us and the Arc Du Triumph. They said we got stopped because we were such a large group (seven people) though we suspect our many salmon on poles and large rolling luggage carts (full of extra salmon and tent poles) was more of a concern. Our new friends, Hiroko, originally from Japan, now living in Paris, and Nick, a lovely young man from England, disarmed them with friendliness and French language skills, and eventually they let us continue on our journey to arrive at the Red Line.

As we moved into and through the march, people joined us and enthusiastically helped us carry salmon through the crowd. During the procession of Native American flute and salmon, many reporters and documenters formed a semi-circle in front of the procession and traveled with us. When the songs ended, somebody asked Paul if he wanted to share words. Paul’s shared teachings and ideas of how his traditional people have understood our responsibilities as human beings. The words were very well acknowledged and honored and our procession grew, as we lightened the load of poles and windsocks in our arms and carts.

The salmon procession continued to grow as we moved toward the Eiffel Tower, about a mile away. Once there, we decided to go down to the main action, through the base of the tower, moving slowly to the music of prayer. At the base of the tower, we met four of the Lummi youth, wearing their regalia and carrying drums. They joined us in a procession through thousands of protesters. As we traveled through, more reporters and documenters were in front of our procession, and people were moving out-of-the-way because of the energy in prayer that was inside of the flute, drum, and message of the salmon.

I was towards the back of the procession with others on the team, handing more salmon poles to people who wanted to carry them with us. Paul describes what he saw from the front: “Many of the very loud protesters were turned to silence because of this prayer in this sacred work that's happening. The path was opened up in front of us, all the way through these many people. There was a great sense of reverence and sacredness to this work.” From the rear of the procession, I could feel the profound shift of energy and saw many people with smiles and some with tears.

Once we are outside of the gauntlet of the march/rally area, (again, another bag search), we went into the adjacent park where Paul and the Lummi youth sang a very rich and beautiful Chief Dan George song from the Coast Salish people. Paul shared deep insight and teachings from his ancestral Wisdom Keepers of how the sharing of Huchoosida (intellect of the heart), when bestowed upon the children, can return us to the circle of life. We closed with a circle and song. The Salmon People helped inspire these words and songs, and are working hard for this return to the Circle of Life.

(These diaries are also being posted by Yes! Magazine under the #ParisDiaries hashtag.)


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