On March 14, 2013 a group of youth media makers came to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington DC to present their short film, We Are Aware/Are You?. The film was created by four high school students from the Suquamish Tribe in Washington State who are participating in the Coastal America Partnership at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which helps raise awareness of coastal problems and promotes stewardship of our ocean resources. The students’ film highlights the impact of ocean acidification in their community, which occurs when there is too much CO2 in the ocean. This is an issue because the CO2 in the water kills shrimp larvae and slows calcification of shells in shellfish. While shellfish become more vulnerable to predators, the main food source for salmon is diminished, and it continues up the food chain. As a consequence, it may not be possible for future generations of Suquamish people to be divers, clam diggers, or fisherman like their parents and grandparents.
Currently the Tribe has little to no control over these issues; all they can do is spread awareness of the damaging effects of ocean acidification and what causes it, and talk to governors and state leaders. Since Duwamish is a Superfund site, there are already actions underway to clean up the pollution and curb CO2 emissions, but students reported there is a long way to go. Therefore, the student filmmakers plan to target youth from the other tribes in the area, particularly setting up booths at the landing sites of next year’s Tribal Journeys. Students are also working with the Seattle Aquarium to study shellfish and get hard data to take to state legislators to get them to understand the problem; right now legislators are so focused on short-term issues they are missing the long-term impact of this problem. Other ideas that the students have are encouraging people to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transportation, and do other small things around your home and throughout your day to reduce your own carbon footprint.