Cascadia Illahee - Department of Bioregion
Illahee, illahie, illi'i - Land, country, earth, soil - in both physical and political senses; the apostrophe in the last spelling denotes a glottal stop, as may also the 'h' in the other spellings. The Chinook word for ‘homeland’ defined through the connection of people rather than geography - a network of peoples arranged through the interweaving of family, blood marriages, allies.
Cascadia Illahee - the Cascadia region, or the land of the Cascadia people (watersheds of the Columbia, Fraser and Snake). Home. Family.
Cascadia is more than simply a bioregion, or lines drawn on a map.
The term Illahee comes from the Chinook world that comprised a network of kin-based villages, and a complex and vast trading network throughout the Cascadia bioregion and North America. This understanding of homeland, as expressed by Illahee was not, like European definitions, predicated on a physical location, boundaries or finite amount of space, but instead was centered around family, friends and allies, and the networks of interrelation that grew from these. Chinook Jargon was the defacto language of the Cascadia Bioregion pre-European settlement, and as a trade language it incorporated different words and cultures as they moved into the region, including Chinese, French, English and Spanish. By the late 1800’s, more than 100,000 people spoke this regional language, and was often the first second language of immigrants who moved to the area.
We choose Cascadia Illahee to represent our land and movement in recognition that a place is more than simply lines on a map or a physical bioregion - but rather where the heart is, and the people who make it up. Our Cascadia Illahee means every person who identifies as a citizen of this place and watershed, the values and principles of what that means, and is committed to becoming an ambassador for this idea and movement. Cascadia means family. We hope you join us.
The Department of Bioregion was launched in 2019 by many of the same organizers who have been active with the movement for many years. We chose the State Department as a base for what we want to do (more than just a satirical jab), because, well, the state department does exactly everything that we want to do. Their goal is to advance the interests of America (in our case Cascadia). They train and run diplomats, who promote this goal. They develop policies that reflect these issues. They issue passports and welcome new citizens. And ultimately — institutions and symbols have an incredibly power, tradition and language — and by subverting them, and infusing it with bioregionalism and our own principles — we begin our own shift towards those ends.
By adopting the Department of Bioregion, we wanted to challenge ourselves to envision what a Department of Bioregion would mean - what would it look like? By asking these questions - it is our hope to begin to shift thinking away from simply US, Canadian or other nationalities, and inspire people to begin to think locally, bioregionally and globally, as both a citizen of their watershed - and the world. We also do so with full acknowledgement that we live on ceded, and unceded lands of dozens of First Nations and Peoples, and do so with respect, and working for their sovereignty within the bioregion, using indigenous languages and Chinook wawa for place names wherever possible.
To make Cascadia a reality
Grow and connect with a network of interconnected bioregional movements around North America & the world.
The Mission of Bioregionalism:
A world comprised of watershed movements, each working to make our world more sustainable, democratic and just.
We envision a network of interconnected bioregional movements that work together, connect people into place based bioregional cultures, assist each other in the hard times, learn lessons from around the world, and share their own models for what has worked, and what hasn’t. It is up to bioregionalists, each in their own way, to create and promote these changes, and lead the way forward, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us.
The Mission of a Bioregional Movement:
Bioregional movements break down global issues and translate the principles of bioregionalism into direct, local and actionable solutions within a bioregion, and are place based hub that empowers individuals and groups to work together around shared principles and values.
Within these movements, bioregionalists build connections, develop solutions, magnify solutions already being practiced, and create accessible pathways for the millions of inhabitants to connect in with these solutions and shift their habits in a beneficial manner.
The mission of a bioregionalist:
To better ourselves in our habits, principles, how we eat, consume, work and play - and improve our relationship to the land we live and rely on.
We examine how we treat each other, approach others with respect and compassion, work to make every interaction a positive one, learn about the history and context of how we came to be to where we are, create spaces to address past injustices, and work in equitable and a just manner together in mutual aid, solidarity and support.
We work within existing systems where our principles overlap towards our solutions, while also creating new systems that are radical, utopian and demand the change we need. Magnify the solutions already existing.
We build models, tools, culture and identities that at are positive, healthy, inclusive and authentic, rooted in place, and create accessible pathways for people to hook in, get involved, and shift our impact as a region.