Filmmaker Kunu Bearchum. Photo by Amanda Leigh Smith.
Our monthly spotlight of inspiring people furthering conservation in the Northwest. 

Kunu Bearchum is a Multimedia Producer at Portland non-profit, Wisdom of the Elders. This month, Wisdom of the Elders celebrates their 25th anniversary as a Native American organization dedicated to preserving Indigenous cultural values. Kunu is a Northern Cheyenne and Ho-Chunk enrolled tribal member. He is a filmmaker, artist, and Indigenous activist whose work centers the relationship between Native Tribes and the environments in which they live and create.

“My relationship with nature in the PNW is a lifelong one. I was born in Eugene, Oregon and my earliest memories are of going on hikes with my mom and family in the temperate rainforests of the inland coastal range. I love our four seasons and diverse climates that are only a few hours apart. I love imagining how the original people of this land used to live. The Northwest had many thriving Indigenous communities with food and bounty in abundance all around them, specifically in the Columbia Gorge. Tribal people would travel from hundreds of miles in all directions to trade their goods with the fisherman of the Gorge.”

For Kunu, Fearless Conservation is found within Indigenous identity. Fighting for the protection of sacred, natural lands isn’t done out of choice, but necessity.

“Indigenous activism and existence as resistance to the extraction industries is [what I think of as] Fearless Conservation. What most people don’t understand is that the core of our identities include the land, and the need to keep our homelands healthy and prosperous for our future generations. What was shown to the world at Standing Rock is that we are willing to put our lives on the line for this type of conservation. Right now, the proposed LNG pipeline in Southern Oregon is top of mind for me and my community. We are doing what we can to raise awareness of the dangers of this proposed pipeline and plan to fight it, tooth and nail.”

Kunu’s work can be found at kunubearchum.com