Cascadia is the bioregion that is often called the “Pacific Northwest” which includes Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, Northern California, Northwestern Wyoming, Western Montana and the panhandle of Alaska. Bioregions make up our biosphere (the Earth) and break down into eco-regions based on watersheds.
Why not the “Pacific Northwest”?
Well, because the Pacific Northwest is a geographic description based on an Atlantic centered map. When, in name, both the place and the people remain as only a geographic description of a distant corner of Atlantic empires, then we do ourselves a great disservice. As “PacificNorthwesterners” we remain a nameless object or second thought to the power centers of Washington D.C. and Ottawa, Canada. By remaining the “Pacific Northwest”, we end up being an object much akin to a man of color being called “boy.” We have a name, we are Cascadians. We have a home and it is called Cascadia. The name Cascadia comes from the term “Cascades” given to this area by David Douglas, the Scottish botanist who was amazed at the waterfalls he encountered on his exploration in the 1820s. It is a name and a tribute to our water cycle which churns sea vapor into rain and snow and in turn gives our home from the Pacific ocean to the western slopes of the Rockies/Kootenais it’s fertility and diversity of life.
In Chinook Wawa or Jargon, the local trade language that merged 27 Indigenous Nations languages with English and French, this rich bioregion is named Chinook Illahee. We, as Cascadians, honor the First Nations of this land and also honor the name Chinook Illahee and the history that has often been omitted in the American and Canadian history text books. We embrace both the names of Cascadia and Chinook Illahee as part of our history and culture and we work to heal the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of Cascadia / Chinook Illahee.
What does the Cascadia Flag represent?
The blue represents the moisture rich sky above and Pacific ocean along with the Salish Sea, lakes and other inland waters. Our home is of continuous cascading waters flowing from our sky and mountains back to the Pacific. For Cascadia is a land of falling water from the Pacific to the western slopes of the Rockies where water cycles as vapor and then rain and snow to run through creek and river back to the Pacific.
The white is for the snow and clouds which are the catalyst of water changing from one state of matter to another; from liquid into vapor (mist and clouds) and from vapor into solid (ice and snow) and melting back to liquid or vapor. The green represents the the forests and fields which, too, bring and carry life giving water through our biodiverse land.
The lone standing Douglas Fir symbolizes endurance, defiance and resilience to fire, flood, catastrophic change and even to anthropocentric Man. All these symbols of color and icon come together to symbolize what being Cascadian is all about.
The Cascadia flag is a symbol of the Cascadia bioregion and of bioregionalists here in the Pacific Northwest. Bioregionalists are working hard around the globe to help our global society grow past the segregating manmade borders of Nation-States and live within the limitations of our Earth. Bioregionalists root in the tenants of deep ecology. They focus on cultivating resilient communities by localizing economies, challenging oppression and promoting equality among all human and non-human communities.
Designed in 1994 by (non-Indigenous) Portland native and professor Alexander Baretich, it can increasingly be found in cities throughout the Cascadian bioregion and is becoming a common sight at soccer games, social/ecological/economic justice events and of course, on locally made microbrews. A favorite game to play around Cascadia is called “Spot the Doug”.