Seattle Weekly has detailed the trials and tribulations of the Duwamish River before. Last year, in fact, Seattle Weekly’s Dan Person wrote 5,000 words on the subject, detailing the history of neglect and contamination of Seattle’s only river. Using immigrant fishing and crabbing as an entry point, in September Person noted that “There are many reasons the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to order a $305 million cleanup of the last five-mile stretch of the Duwamish River ... But the main one, as stated by the EPA, is to make ... fish and shellfish fit to consume.”
As public outcries over the river’s cleanliness gain steam, the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) today has upped the PR ante with a series of billboards intended to school Seattleites on the important role the river has played for Seattle over the years and what can be done to save it.
And for star power, the DRCC has brought in Macklemore.
Launching the website riverforall.org, Macklemore is just one of many Seattle residents going to bat for the Duwamish, albeit the most high-profile.
On his website, Macklemore writes:
The Duwamish is a huge part of our history as Seattleites. It’s the only river that runs through Seattle. For thousands of years the river has served as the primary food source for the people that live on and around the river, and communities throughout generations have called the Duwamish home. As someone who is proud to have lived in Seattle my entire life, I was inspired to learn about the history and legacy of the river, and the rich culture of the Duwamish tribe. I was alarmed, however, to learn more about the river’s current state and negative impact on our city’s public health.
Over time, industry and big business have contaminated the river with toxic levels of waste, making it one of the most polluted and dangerous rivers in America. This directly affects the lives of today’s residents. The life expectancy for people living in South Park (the community that lives on/around the river) is 8 years less than the rest of Seattle overall, and 13 years less than those living in more affluent Seattle neighborhoods.
This is not an equal playing field. If industry were to dump toxic amounts of waste into Lake Washington on the shores of Laurelhurst or Madison Park, we would do something about it. This is no different, yet the largely low-income communities of South Park and Georgetown go unnoticed and ignored.
We share a collective responsibility to protect this land and to honor the people who first lived here. For the Duwamish and many other tribes, this is where they fish and the food that they eat. Fishing on this river is part of who they are and their community’s lineage.
I believe that it is our responsibility as members of Seattle to clean and restore this river back to health, and to make sure that ALL children can grow up and have access to a clean and safe environment. To ensure that the salmon they eat will act as nourishment and not lead to disease.
We are Seattle. No bridge, boundaries or invisible man-made lines divide us. This is our home, our people and our community. This is our city’s only river, and I want to do my part to make sure that it’s safe for all that reside here. I stand in solidarity with community leaders and families who have organized for years to right this injustice.
How’d this all come about, one might wonder. Over at Crosscut, Martha Baskin has the lowdown:
As the story was told to BJ Cummings, longtime policy adviser with the DRCC, Macklemore’s team contacted the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition after he and his fiancée returned from a trip to India this spring. (Neither Macklemore nor his representatives were available for immediate comment.) The two of them spent time learning about the Ganges and the special relationship the river holds for its people. When they got back to Seattle, they began to visit their hometown river, to kayak on it and speak with those who live on its banks. And Macklemore vowed to do his part to right the river’s historical environmental injustice.
As Baskin notes for Crosscut, the EPA’s draft cleanup plan for the Duwamish is “slated to be finalized at the end of this year.”