Equity and Inclusion
This webpage is a living document managed by our Equity Action Team and members of our board. This document is meant to provide background on OLWC’s journey to becoming a more equitable organization and will be regularly updated to reflect what we’ve been learning. A variety of voices within our watershed council community contributed to this document. Personal statements will be linked throughout.
Oswego Lake Watershed Council strives to be a welcoming, equitable, just, and inclusive organization. We are working to actively include cultures, world-views, and other ways of knowing that have been historically excluded from the Western scientific worldview, which has informed much of our existing land stewardship practices. We acknowledge that the natural world has suffered because of this lack of representation and understanding. Our own awareness of the present conditions of these lands—and the fuller picture of the earth’s struggle for health—depends on how we listen to many voices, past and present, as we engage our vision and goals. We strive to work forward with that principle as part of our perspective in the way we work with the land and form partnerships.
The Council is committed to advancing environmental justice and doing our part to enrich the lives of all people who interact with the Oswego Lake Watershed and play integral roles in its ecological functions.
First Stewards of Oswego Lake Watershed
We acknowledge that our land is saturated with injustices and exclusions of many different communities. We strive to welcome ALL who share the Oswego Lake Watershed. Because we are a land-based organization, many of our goals and practices are oriented around the indigenous perspective of land stewardship.
Indigenous peoples successfully cared for this land for millennia prior to European colonization and continue to do so today. The land that we now call Lake Oswego, Oregon, is the traditional land of the Tualatin band of the Kalapuyan Tribe, the Atfalati peoples, the Chinook band of the Clackamas tribe, and other native groups who relied on and cultivated their natural environment. Their tribal members today are represented by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and other indigenous groups. This relational knowledge of local ecosystems is embedded in indigenous culture, food, craftsmanship, and storytelling, and is recognized today through Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). You can read more about existing research on the indigenous history of land cultivation of the Oswego Lake Watershed on our Watershed History page and our Land Resilience page.
“The only way to find solutions to any of our conservation problems … is by seating people at the table together from very diverse sets of values and social backgrounds, and listening to each other, and talking to each other with respect.”
–Dr. Cristina Eisenberg, Graduate Faculty, College of Forestry, OSU
How do we see ourselves within this world?
“Knowing that you love the earth changs you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
–Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
How do we learn from each other and from the Earth?
Every human being who interacts with the Oswego Lake Watershed is an integral part of the watershed. As a Watershed Council, we embrace the worldview that human beings are a part of the natural world and our management practices impact us as part of the land. Over the millennia that human beings co-evolved alongside nature, the landscape imprinted on us and, in turn, we’ve imprinted our will on the landscape through deliberate management. We are in a position of collective decision-making to ensure protection and enhancement of our natural resources and this position is strongest when it adopts multiple perspectives and land management frameworks that incorporate agency, gratitude, empathy, reciprocity, and interdependence.
TEK is a holistic and dynamic body of knowledge handed down by generations of people with collective ancestral ties to land and is one worldview that embraces biocultural restoration as a way of healing damaged relationships between people and place. The modern idea of a “land ethic” was articulated by Aldo Leopold in his book A Sand County Almanac as a set of beliefs and principles shared by a community to guide land management decisions. The OLWC staff and board have explored different expansions on this idea through indigenous perspectives such as Dr. Christina Eisenberg’s in her recent lecture, “Beyond the Land Ethic: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Forest Management and Conservation, A Native American Perspective” and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s environmental philosophy centered on building reciprocal relationships with the land. These foundational perspectives demonstrate and explore how individual and collective environmental values grow directly from their experience.
Action is the outcome of meaningful intentions and more significant than words. Our land ethic is mere rhetoric unless we find restorative empowerment to envision, plan, and implement watershed health strategies. Such endeavors emanate from our shared love and gratitude that, like flowing tributaries, connect and bond us. We find our unity in devoted service to this fuller environment of life. Respect, reverence and reciprocity are the gauges of our enlightenment. A healthy watershed where all people are respected and cared for along with our natural gifts is the desired actuality.
–OLWC Secretary, Mike Buck
You can read Mike’s full statement here.
“Identities and memories are not things we think about, but things we think with.”
–John R. Gillis, Commemorations.
How are we learning to include and incorporate other voices?
- Recognizing that Western science has been the dominant perspective while also acknowledging the contributions of indigenous land practices. We’ve been learning a lot about the marriage between relational and linear worldviews through the research of Terry Cross, Founder and Senior Advisor at National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and member of the Seneca Nation.
- Engaging with our board members using presentations by Oregon State University Starker Lecture series, including Cristina Eisenberg’s Beyond the Land Ethic. You can watch a recording of Cristina’s lecture here and read our board notes and takeaways here.
- Staff and board members attended a week-long training hosted by Center for Diversity & The Environment (CDE). This course, Building the Foundation: Exploring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is designed to establish the foundation for deep learning, honest exploration and open dialogue around the dimensions of diversity in our personal and professional lives.
- Framing board committee discussions and goals around Robin Wall Kimmerer’s five requirements for environmental redemption and renewal: Relationship, Responsibility, Respect, Reverence and Reciprocity.
- Attending Respond to Racism community discussions
- Working to enhance oak habitat utilizing adaptive management practices, indigenous perspectives, and highlighting the cultural value of Oregon White Oak ecosystems.
- Working with Equity consultants and trainers to elevate our DEIJ planning efforts
- Incorporating a variety of perspectives, fields of study, and approaches in our habitat enhancement and conservation work, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Western Science, access to nature (by eliminating barriers) for people of all abilities and backgrounds, creating safety for our community members and using place-based naming conventions.
Equity Action Team
The Equity Action Team is a committee composed of OLWC staff, Board members, and community partners. This group meets monthly to address equity, diversity, and inclusion in our work and create actions to better represent the diverse voices of our community. Specific focuses include:
- Awareness-raising for the Board, and for the Community (and action team members)
- Action – Bring in funds for DEIJ efforts and integrating this work into programing
- Review and improve Internal Policies
- Partnerships and Relationship building are central to our work
- Reciprocity – embedding this in the culture of the organization
- Creating intentionality within organizational culture
Equity and Inclusion Plan
2021-2023 Strategic Plan goal 4: Foster a welcoming, equitable, and inclusive organization. Improve programming and community impact through self-improvement, building partnerships, and engaging with all who work, learn, recreate, and live in our community.
Objective 1: Establish a structure to implement DEI strategies and actions across OLWC
Objective 2: Strengthen and build partnerships & relationships with diverse local organizations, with a focus on reciprocity
Objective 3: Improve equitable programming and increase community impact
Objective 4: Engage with the LO community
Black Lives Matter Statement from 2020
Black Lives Matter.
The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police have reinvigorated national conversations around racial justice, and police violence against Black people. We condemn this racial violence.
Environmental justice is inherently linked with social and racial justice. We cannot have a safe and healthy watershed unless we address the conditions that harm folks who live in our community. We envision a world where a black man can hike through our local parks and birdwatch without fear of surveillance or violence. Where everyone can breathe, and have access to clean air and clean water.
We are an environmental, place-based organization. We work on land that has been inhabited and stewarded by Native people since time immemorial. White colonists forcibly removed indigenous communities from the land and settled here, including the local violent removal of Clackamas, Kalapuya, and Cowlitz people. The State of Oregon was also founded on Black exclusion laws. And Lake Oswego is known for its aggressive Redlining (a state-sanctioned process by which banks and other institutions excluded people of color from owning homes here solely based on their race). While these laws have changed, the impact remains – many home deeds still include racist, exclusionary language, and Black residents make up less than one percent of Lake Oswego’s population.
We are a predominantly white organization. We must acknowledge that we have been inactive on issues of racial and social justice. In staying silent, we have been complicit in upholding systemic racial injustices. We pledge to do better. We pledge to use this moment as an opportunity to self-reflect, to learn, to reform, and to act. We know that we will never be perfect. But to be anti-racist is to be constantly doing the difficult work, learning from our mistakes, unlearning, repairing harm, and moving forward.
This moment is about Black lives and Black people. We hear the voices of Black environmentalists and activists calling us in, to do better. We must find the balance between centering the voices of marginalized communities, and identifying how Oswego Lake Watershed Council participates in systems of oppression. We plan to initiate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts within our organization. This will not just be a “check the box” action- it will be a process of reform, restorative justice, and healing.
If you are confused about why we are sharing this message, please reach out to us. We are happy to clarify anything, and to provide additional resources and education. If you have read this far, thank you for taking the time to understand our position.
The Oswego Lake Watershed Council Outreach Team
Watch “Explained – The Racial Wealth Gap” on Netflix