As a lifelong Washingtonian and animal lover, Savannah Smith has had an interest in animals and the environment from a very young age, living in a household with non-human family members “ranging from hermit crabs to peacocks.” She attended Western Washington University where she was able to work hands-on with marine environments and witnessed the important role that salmon play in our ecosystems. While at Western, she went through a culture shock attending a predominantly white university and noticed the “disconnect there was for BIPOC in environmental spaces, whether that was political, professional, academic, or just community-based conversation and decisions.” After college, she met her future business partner and friend, Ebony Wellborn, at EarthCorps. The following year, they went on to start SeaPotential, an organization which “cultivates a full cycle of BIPOC representation in maritime,” from youth engagement to maritime business practices, aimed at addressing individual and generational trauma that can be related to marine spaces for BIPOC. Their work focuses on bringing in different cultural perspectives and relationships, not just focusing on stats and data, but on feeling and heart-based connections.
For Savannah, orcas are not only a keystone species but also part of our community as well. And as such, we have just as much duty to protect them as we would any person in said community. Her connection to orca grew through the Women & Whales First Poetry Cohort, in which she discussed and examined the interconnectedness of our ecosystems and the role that salmon and orca play in our ecosystem and lives. Orcas are important, just because they exist. She notes that there is both ecological importance and cultural importance in helping orcas stay alive as a population and a family. She believes that central to this conversation of the reciprocal relationship between humans, orca, and salmon are support for land back initiatives and indigenous stewardship in order to protect our neighbors, the salmon, and orcas.