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Remembering Jene McCovey

Last week we lost a pillar in our community. Jene McCovey was an unwavering activist for indigenous rights, environmental protection, and social justice issues. Despite her physical confinement to a wheelchair, she always made it to rallies, protests and community events to advocate for important causes. Her activism began in her early twenties, and it never stopped. She helped secure protections for native communities that were being sprayed by logging companies with toxic herbicides, she participated in the Save the Redwoods campaign, advocated for protection of Dillon Creek where sacred sites were at risk of logging, she fought for Klamath Dam Removal, protested radioactive contamination from nuclear waste, spoke out against Navy sonar testing and showed up to speak at public meetings for countless other issues that would impact the places we live and love.

“I grew up in Hoopa. I’m a Yurok Tribal member from the Klamath River; I’m Chetco from the Chetco River, Tolowa from the Smith River, and Chilula from Redwood Creek. I’m thankful to have left Creator to come here to be who I am at this time. As human beings we choose how to walk back to Creator. In my young life, I choose to walk for five of my relatives who aren’t here. Two of them were small babies who failed to thrive due to exposure of aerial spraying of herbicides 2,4,5-T and Agent Orange, and three of my cousins spontaneously aborted their babies from exposure to the herbicides. They would have been the same age as my daughter Daisy Etta, who is 42 years old,” said Jene in a 2018 interview.

Jene was a mentor and ally to many. She traveled near and far to share her prayers and wisdom on behalf of the four legged ones, the two legged ones, the finned ones, and the one legged ones (trees). Jene has trained with the Smithsonian Institute, Traditional Circle of Native American Youth and Elders, she has presented at the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing China 1995, and she has given workshops on indigenous and environmental issues ranging from pesticides, water quality, the Klamath dams and indigenous hunting and fishing rights. In 2014, Jene was honored by the Women’s Intercultural Network with the Circle of Courage Award that was presented by Representative Nancy Pelosi “for being a mover and shaker”. And in 2018, she was honored with EPIC’s Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award, for her life-long dedication to environmental activism.

Wherever there was a threat, Jene was right there in the forefront, supporting, speaking, and representing people, places, and wildlife to make our community, and the world a better, more conscientious place. We are grateful for the time we shared with Jene and know her legacy will live on through the inspiration that she gave to all of us who she touched with her words, compassion, and tenacity.


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