It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Justin Finkbonner, and with great gratitude that we honor his life and good work.
Justin Finkbonner, Lummi, was one of the first people to encourage us to tell our story about the tribal relationship to the Salish Sea - Clearwater. In fact, he helped us to receive our very first grant 4 years ago from the Lummi Nation. It was a vote of confidence for us to move forward.
Through pre-production and production, Justin showed up at many meetings (as an active leader) about environmental protection, coal train opposition, Canoe Journey, and cultural gatherings. We documented his community contributions over the years and this footage is featured prominently in the documentary storyline as well as in the community stories and museum exhibits. He was a fierce protector of his culture, his people, and the Salish Sea. Justin was a traditional dancer, singer, carver and drummer. He believed in the culture and medicine of the Canoe. As skipper of the Lummi Youth Canoe Family, he was an inspiration, a teacher, a friend. As a community activist, Justin was a key player in the opposition to the proposed coal port at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point). He paddled his canoe into the kayaktivist protest against the Shell Arctic drilling. A photo of Justin, standing in his canoe, surrounded by kayaks, made its way around the world. The protestors were successful in halting Shell’s Arctic drilling “for the foreseeable future.” Justin’s commitment to safeguarding the planet has benefitted us all.
We had hoped that Clearwater would be a celebration of Justin’s ongoing and vital work, and instead, we now hope that Clearwater will be one of many tributes to his life and spirit with the permission of his family. In Coast Salish territory it is customary to not show images of loved ones who have passed for at least one year. We honor the importance of this protocol and will work with the family in how to address the sections of the story featuring Justin.
Justin was loved for his quick and open smile, his generosity of spirit, and his loyalty to the people and place he loved. He leaves behind 2 sons, Kaiden and Liam, and a great many family members and friends.
Tracy, Julie, Jacob, Lou & Crew