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Saltwater Soundwalk: Indigenous Audio Tour of Seattle (Encore)

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In this special encore episode of Making Contact, we present “Saltwater Soundwalk”: Indigenous Audio Tour of Seattle. Produced by Jenny Asarnow and Rachel Lam, this rhythmic, watery audio experience, streams of stories that ebb and flow, intermixes English with Coast Salish languages. Indigenous Coast Salish peoples continue to steward this land and preserve its language, despite settler colonialism, industrialization and gentrification. Part story, part sound collage, this piece is scored entirely with the sounds of the waters and animals who live in and around the Salish Sea.

Special Thanks: Commissioned with SPU 1% for Art Funds. Administered by the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. City of Seattle, Bruce Harrell, Mayor. This episode of Making Contact was supported in part by a Moral Courage grant from the Satterberg Foundation.

Image Caption + Credit: People listening to Saltwater Soundwalk in Seattle; Jenny Asarnow 

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  • Voices in order of appearance: Water at Don Armeni Boat Ramp Randi Purser Smith (Suquamish) Archie Cantrell (Puyallup) Southern Resident Orcas Plainfin Midshipman Fish Ken Workman (Duwamish) Michelle Myles (Tulalip) LaDean Johnson (Skokomish) Owen Oliver (Quinault/Isleta Pueblo) RYAN! Feddersen (Colville) Warren King George (Muckleshoot) Lydia Sigo (Suquamish) Water at Gas Works Park, Lake Union Water at Kayak Point Regional County Park Birds and Water at Puyallup River Eric Autry Birds and Water at Erlands Point Water in Pacific Ocean, La Push Birds and water at Potlatch State Park, Hood Canal Jeanne Hyde Joseph Sisnero

  • Produced By: Rachel Lam (Anigiduwagi enrolled Cherokee Nation) and Jenny Asarnow


Local artists and producers, Rachel Lam (Anigiduwagi enrolled Cherokee Nation) and Jenny Asarnow produced this work as part of FLOW: Art Along the Ship Canal, a commission from Seattle Public Utilities in partnership with the Office of Arts & Culture.

The Making Contact Team

  • Executive Director: Jina Chung
  • Segment Editor + Interim Senior Producer: Jessica Partnow
  • Staff Producers: Anita Johnson, Salima Hamirani, Lucy Kang, Amy Gastelum
  • Audio Engineering: Jeff Emtman


Music Credits:

  • Last Kiss – Magnus Moone
  • Audiobinger – Enchanted Forest


Anita Johnson: I’m Anita Johnson. And on today’s Making Contact, we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Lam, and Jenny Asarnow, artists who created “Saltwater Soundwalk,” an audio experience exploring the people, land and waterways that define Seattle. Starting with you Jenny please introduce yourself the to listeners…

Jenny Asarnow: Hi I’m Jenny Asarnow…I’m one of the creators of Saltwater Sound Walk, and I am an audio artist, producer, editor, educator, living in Seattle on Cosalish territory. Um, and I guess a little bit more about me that informs my relationship to this place and to the peace is that I. , something that from my experience, are being a part of a diaspora community of Ashkenazi Jewish people being a white person living in America, as well as being a parent of a two and a half year old.

And, um, trying to work out how to raise someone with a good relationship to places we live in.

Rachel Lam: My name is Rachel and I’m the other creator. Um, and if it’s okay, I’d wanna speak a little bit of my. My mom’s tribal language. Um, so gk.

Um, I was born in Honolulu, which is Kanaka territory, and I grew up and I’m living right now. In Salus territory, like Jenny,

Anita: if you both can talk a bit about Saltwater Sound Walk and what’s the origin and how did you two come together to create this, and why was this an important story to tell?

Rachel: Well, Jenny reached out to me, um, to see if I wanted to work on the piece. And we met when I was in high school, uh, through a youth radio program at an NPR station in Seattle. And we both really like. audio, like experimental audio projects that, um, are maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but are just really fun to listen to for people that love sound.

Um, and so sh the project that she was describing sounded just absolutely amazing. And then, because I work really closely with my tribe’s language, I was really, really excited to be able to be part of a piece that could center language in a way. Um, and I felt like, , it would be really fun to, uh, work with language speakers in this area, not being native to Seattle, but, um, having grown up here, um, and having different family friends, uh, who I immediately thought of as people who could help advise, um, where the piece should go.

Anita: And Jenny?

Jenny: Yeah. Saltwater Sound Walk is, um, I describe it as an audio experience. It’s intended to help listeners think about our relationships and responsibilities to the Salish Sea and other waterways, and it’s something that you can listen to on site if you’re in this area, in Washington state, Seattle Coast Salish territory, or it’s something you can listen to online.

I think one important thing to know about the piece is that, um, it’s not like a typical, um, narrative story you might hear on like NPR or something like that. It, um, the way the story came about was, I would say through relationships. Um, it was definitely informed by relationships to the water itself. Um, we really wanted this to sound watery and steel watery, and, um, we traveled to different, um, locations along the waters. Region to get recordings. And we also, um, were lucky to receive recordings from people who’ve recorded fish and animals under the water.

Rachel had reached out to a number of local tribes and specifically to people who, um, were.

You know, language experts, history experts, and people, um, sent in their own recordings that we then wove together through the piece. So some of the recordings we received were, you know, one individual talking. Some of them were one person interviewing another person. Um, it was just a pretty wide variety of recordings.

It, we started, uh, in 2020, like a little bit before all, all of this. , you know, lockdown and everything went down. And then of course there were many delays as a result. Um, but yeah, it was, it was a long process. , it’s, it, it’s a really strong piece. And, uh, you’ve been both saying co ish, you know, territory language.

Anita: What’s the native language being spoken throughout the piece? Uh, does it vary? And tell us a bit about the history of the native people to the Pacific.

Rachel: Um, so there’s a couple of different languages being spoken in the piece because there’s, um, people speaking from a couple different tribes. Um, so some of the languages are t Wauk and Lu and . Um, and as far as, um, like some words to set up the history of the place, um, I feel like, uh, it’s a complex.

Seattle’s an interesting place because Seattle’s named after Chief Seattle. Um, but native people, uh, when the city was built, weren’t allowed to be in it after dark. Um, they weren’t allowed to live in it, um, uh, until a really long time. I can’t remember off the top of my head. Um, so it’s a place that is seemingly, um, really.

connected with native people, but at the same time has, um, uh, doesn’t want really anything to do with them . Um, and, uh, there’s lots of things in Seattle that are very native ask, um, wherein they’re still the city. Uh, and the history of the city kind of pushes it away. Um, which I think is something that everyone talks about in the piece.

Um, like. Owen and Ken and Warren are discussing the ship canal, which is uh, like a major. , um, kind of iconic visual, um, attraction in North Seattle. Like people go to have picnics on it. It’s like the main route on a trail that runs from a really popular beach to a really popular park. Uh, and it’s really beautiful.

I grew up kind of near it. There’s like these trees that line it. Um, all the seasons are beautiful falls. fall is great. All uh, winter and somewhere in spring. , but there’s a really dark history behind it in the sense that to create it, um, uh, one of the major rivers, um, that was really important to the Duwamish, um, had to be, uh, drained in the order for, um, the city to grow industrially and move things.

Um, so I think that the, like if there was some words to set up the native history in Seattle, um, it would just be that it’s, uh, this push and pull of Seattle. , um, elevating Native voices, but not always in, uh, an honest way, I guess.

Anita Johnson: Thank you, both. “Now for the rest of today’s show we’re going to share part of Saltwater Soundwalk with you. This is how Rachel and Jenny wove together the recordings they collected, with Native languages, water sounds, and conversations. Here’s an excerpt of their piece exploring the stories and voices of Indigenous Coast Salish peoples, the Salish Sea, and connecting waters.

Saltwater Soundwalk audio:

[sound of gently lapping waves at [00:00:10] Randi Purser Smith (Suquamish): [Greeting in Lushootseed] [00:00:19] Archie Cantrell (Puyallup): [Greeting in Twulshootseed] [sound of whales clicking and calling intermixed with plainfin midshipman humming and growling sounds] [00:00:29] Ken Workman (Duwamish): [Introduction in Lushootseed] [00:00:37] Michelle Myles (Tulalip): [Introduction in Lushootseed] [00:00:40] Archie: [Introduction in Twulshootseed]

[00:00:43] Randi: [Introduction in Lushootseed] [00:00:46] LaDean Johnson (Skokomish): [Introduction in Tuwaduq] [00:00:49] Owen Oliver (Quinault / Isleta Pueblo): [Introduction in Chinuk Wawa] Kloshe Konaway Owen Nayka Niem [sound of waters from around the Salish Sea and its watershed continues] [00:00:58] Ken Workman: [Lushootseed word] is water, [Repeats Lushootseed word] is gathering. Collage of interwoven voices: [00:01:04] RYAN! Feddersen: I think I can feel where water is. I use it to orient myself… Archie: [Speaking in Twulshootseed / The river and saltwater have been important to our people since the beginning of time] Don Armeni Boat Ramp] RYAN!: …I think, where is water. Owen: It’s just—it’s such a soft feeling. LaDean: [Tuwaduq word / fish] Randi: As young as I can remember, it has been the beach and the water that my existence has been drawn to. LaDean: Fish, fish, fish in general. Warren King George (Muckleshoot): The king salmon, the sockeye salmon, the humpy or pink salmon, the silver salmon, the steelhead… Lydia Sigo (Suquamish): Treaties are guaranteed by the Constitution, yet they are broken every day… [sounds of plainfin midshipman humming and growling intermixed with sounds of whales clicking and calling] Warren: … were forced to find a different home. Lydia: …broken every day by environmental degradation. Michelle: [Lushootseed word / Seattle] Randi: It was like a barren wasteland or desert. LaDean: We as a people in general love the fish. Archie: The river and salt water have been important to our people since the beginning of time. Archie and Lydia: [Speaking Twulshootseed and Lushootseed words together / saltwater] [plainfin midshipman sound and the sound of lapping waves continue] [sound of water a [00:02:11] Warren: [Speaking in Southern Lushootseed] [Repeats in Southern Lushootseed] [Repeats Southern Lushootseed name / Hit the Water] Hit the Water.

Warren: The Lake Union is a good memory for me. My name is Warren King George. I was born in 1965 in Auburn, Washington, very near the present-day Muckleshoot, bəqəlšuɫ, Reservation. My father’s bloodline is how I’m enrolled in the bəqəlšuɫ Tribe. t Gas Works Park, Lake Union] Gas Works Park is a great park for a lot of people. Most people who visit the park, I don’t think they have any idea of the traditional history and the traditional value of that area; of that—banks of the Lake Union. Gas Works Park is a great park for a lot of people. And the last time I was there, I got to fish that water with my sister [European name] who carries the traditional name [Says Lushootseed name]. And we got to fish together. We fished for sockeye. We got to exercise a treaty right. Sockeye salmon—[Says Southern Lushootseed word twice] is the way you can say that in Lushootseed. You know, it’s rare that we get a treaty sockeye fishery. [Repeats Southern Lushootseed word / sockeye] And we fished in Lake Union. Lake Union falls within the usual and accustomed area of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. There was so much activity going on that day with boaters and sailboaters and jet skis and people walking their dogs and, and families enjoying the picnic and couples, you know, walking around, holding hands and people flying kites. And there was sunbathers. It was strange because I was there for a totally different reason. [Sounds of people talking, bicycles and music at The place that my sister and I fished was very near [Says Southern Lushootseed name twice]. It was just east of [Southern Lushootseed name]. [sounds of Gas Works Park fades out] [00:05:24] Archie: [Speaks in Twulshootseed] The river and salt water have been important to our people since the beginning of time. [sound of gently lapping waves at [00:05:56] Ken: [Says Lushootseed name / Workman] Workman. [Speaks in Lushootseed] Workman is my name. [Speaks in Lushootseed] I am Workman of the Duwamish tribe. [Speaks in Lushootseed] Great, great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle, I. So that city over there is named after my great, great, great, great grandfather. So, Seattle. Hey, Grandpa. How you doing? So we say [Lushootseed phrase], which means, “Come ashore”. Don Armeni Boat Ramp] Gas Works Park] [Speaks in Lushootseed]. Come ashore onto this land. [Speaks in Lushootseed]. Welcome my friend. And that generally is enough. And people go, “Okay! The Duwamish said we can be here.” [Laughs] So we all have a good time, but we also do the same thing when we’re on somebody else’s land. We recognize that that’s their land. Those are their people, ancient people in the ground, and they’ve been there for a long time and you just can’t, you know, be trespassing. You have to ask for permission. [sounds of water at Don Armeni Boat Ramp continue] Except today our land is downtown Seattle with Space Needles and skyscrapers and billionaires upon billionaires upon billionaires. So it’s changed. Hundred and seventy years ago there was nothing over there except beaver and elk and deer and seagull and seals and stuff like that. [sounds of water at Don Armeni Boat Ramp] But here we are. It’s a wonderful day. It’s blue sky and clouds and the air is crisp, and the city is all lit up from the sun. Over here where the stadiums are, the baseball stadium and the football stadium, just about a half mile to the north of them is the ancient village of [Lushootseed name]. Our names are about places. [sounds of water at Don Armeni Boat Ramp fade out] [00:08:48] Archie: [Speaks in Twulshootseed] The Lushootseed language comes from the land. [sounds of water at Kayak Point Regional County Park] [00:09:06] Michelle: [Says Lushootseed name twice] [Lushootseed name] is a very ancient name—a prehistoric name. [00:09:26] Ken: Our names are about places. [00:09:30] Michelle: [Says Lushootseed name twice] It is a name of a place, of a bay, and since 1855, the name of a reservation. Tulalip… Tulalip… The name is mispronounced by so many people, but Tulalip is nearest to the right pronunciation for the Snohomish Indian word [Says Lushootseed name / The Long Bay] which means, “The Long Bay”. [sounds of water at K lapping in the background] [00:10:10] Michelle: [Lushootseed Introduction] Michelle Myles [00:10:45] Michelle: So first off, we’re going to talk about some names that are located around Tulalip [Says Lushootseed name]. The first one we’re going to talk about is [Repeats Lushootseed name twice]. It was the largest Snohomish village [located in present-day Everett]. [Lushootseed name / Rock Point, otherwise known as Priest Point—that’s where Father Cheruse had his first school.]. [Speaks in Lushootseed] And that is the place where the wooly dogs were kept. Spee-Bi-Dah. Spee-Bi-Dah. And it still holds that name till this day. [Lushootseed name] That’s what we call Seattle. [Speaks in Lushootseed / A place located in the southern end of Portage Bay. There was a marsh there.] [Lushootseed name / the portage from Lake Washington to Lake Union] [Lushootseed name / deep for canoes. A bluff at the foot of Lake Union] [Speaks in Lushootseed] In Lushootseed it means a place where jumping occurred. Nowadays there are a number of houseboats that are moored along this waterfront. And so that’s located near Gas Works Park. [Lushootseed word / deep. A place with rocky shoreline, there may have been a dropoff there.] [Lushootseed phrase / where a trail descends to the water at the southern end of Lake Union.] ayak Point Regional County Park So what’s fascinating about all these land formations, you have to think back that when our people were naming these places in Lushootseed, there were no planes at that time. Our people had to walk, travel by canoe, and for them to name all these locations around Washington State all through Seattle, all the way up until you get to Canada, is amazing. [sounds of water at Kayak Point Regional County Park fades out] [sounds of people talking at Gas Works Park] [00:13:17] Warren: [Speaking in Southern Lushootseed] [sound of gently lapping water in Lake Union at Gas Works Park] The place that my sister and I fished was very near [Says Southern Lushootseed word twice]. The literal translation means “Hit the Water.” The reason why we call [Southern Lushootseed name] “Hit the Water” was historically and traditionally that was one method of fishing, and you would, we would hit the water to drive the fish into these traps. We were fishing near, very nearby [Southern Lushootseed name]. Hit the Water. That was an old fishing site, an old village site. [sound of birds chirping at Lake Union, sound fades out] [sound of plainfin midshipman hum and growl intermixed with whale clicks and calls] [00:14:35] Archie: [Speaks in Twulshootseed ] We fish with nets. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] We dive for geoduck. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] We trap for crab. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] We dig clams. [sound of flowing water and birds on the banks of the Puyallup River] [Speaks in Twulshootseed] And we trap for shrimp. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] We continue to gather, fish, and travel by water in our traditional waterways. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] I feel connected to our waters. [Speaks in Twulshootseed] The rivers and saltwater have been important to our people since the beginning of time. [sounds of the Puyallup River continue] [00:15:58] Randi: It is the water that supports all of the life we seek to support and feed our families. [sound of plainfin midshipman hums, grunts and growls intermixed with whale clicks and calls, and the sounds of the Puyallup River banks] [00:16:20] Michelle: [Says Lushootseed word / Seattle twice] [00:16:25] Archie: [Speaks in Twulshootseed / I feel connected to our waters] [sounds of the Puyallup River banks fades out as sounds derived from midshipman hums continue] [00:16:42] RYAN!: I think I can feel where water is. I use it to orient myself. Once I feel where is water, I can then figure out where I am. Hi, my name is RYAN! Feddersen. I’m a visual artist based in Tacoma, Washington. I’m also a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, descended from the Okenagan and Arrow Lakes Bands. Water, when it’s alive, is continuously moving. And I’d like to pose that water and bodies of water have inherent rights as all life does. When we do not treat those bodies of water respectfully, and when we act destructively, we are violating their rights to live. [sound of gently lapping waves at Don Armeni Boat Ramp] [00:17:43] Eric Autry (Seattle Public Utilities): So, let’s see. Here’s what we’ve gone to in the past 24 hours or so. Yeah, we had a spill from a garbage truck, and what happened was the contents of the garbage truck caught on fire and the garbage truck had to dump its load in the street. [sound of birds and water at at low tide] There was a spill of sewage. We had another garbage truck this morning spill a bunch of antifreeze. And we had a diesel spill at an intersection. When I show up to some of this stuff. And I’m like, oh no, I don’t want to touch this. [Laughs] Erlands Point My name’s Eric Autry. I’m a senior environmental compliance inspector and I’m the lead of Seattle Public Utilities spill response program. Our motto is “Only rain down the drain.” You know, my whole job is to make sure that pollution isn’t getting into the water through the storm water system. [sounds of Erlands Point fade out] [sounds of outdoor water tap turning, spraying a hose, a person drinking water, washing dishes, and a washing machine] [00:18:56] RYAN!: Painting watercolors. Shaving your legs. Swimming and making pools. Doing the dishes. Shampooing your hair. Shampooing a pet. Growing food. Watering herbs. These are all very mundane things that we do. But as banal as these tasks are, they’re possible through us having access to and consuming this clean water. [00:19:42] Eric: I don’t think as like, community members, we think about how our actions could cause stormwater pollution—things like washing your car, or having a leaking vehicle, spraying out a paintbrush in your driveway—you know, pretty innocuous things that you’re like, “Ah, this isn’t a big deal”. But it’s the combination of all of these things together that has an effect on the environment. If you’re putting something on the ground, on an impervious surface, you’re putting it in the water. It’s gonna get there. The road, your curb, your driveway—that’s the water. [sound of gently lapping waves] [00:20:26] Archie: [Says Twulshootseed word / saltwater twice] [00:20:33] Lydia: [Lushootseed word / saltwater] [sound of rain]

Oh, oh,…ambient water sounds….fades out.

Anita Johnson: We just listened to an excerpt from “Saltwater Soundwalk,”produced by Jenny Asarnow and Rachel Lam. If you find yourself in Seattle, you can visit  Gas Works Park to experience this project in person. Again thank you to both Jenny and Rachel for that amazing story. To find out more about Saltwater Soundwalk or listen to the full 55-minute audio story go to Saltwater Soundwalk dotnet or check out our website at And we’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s show or perhaps your suggestion for a story idea you’d like us to cover. You can also leave us a comment or visit us on our social media. On facebook we’re Making Contact, on twitter we’re making underscore contact, and on instagram we’re makingcontactradioproject.

This episode of Making Contact was supported in part by a Moral Courage grant from the Satterberg Foundation.

I’m Anita Johnson, thank you for listening to Making Contact.

Author: Taylor Rapalyea

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