I have been in awe of Asum (Native American Sahaptin language for Pacific Lamprey) ever since I came across them while working for the US Forest Service as a fish technician. When I first watched them spawn, they took me to an entirely different world, a place that I never knew existed… their existence transcended me from the boundaries of time and space… I have a hard time putting “words” to describe that unique experience. And the more I inquired about this fish, the more I learned that there is so much we still don’t understand about this unique living being. Very little is still known about this fish.
Biologically we have only begun to understand the infinite extent of their relations to other species and the ecosystems. They have survived for 450 million years (one of the oldest vertebrate species on earth and older than trees!) and lived through 4-5 mass extinction events on earth, including ice ages, volcanic eruptions, and meteorites. God only knows all the things that they have witnessed here on earth. The only reason that they have persisted for so long is because they fit tightly into the “web of life” here on earth and they have contributed their lives for the thousands and millions of species that have come and gone during that time. Somewhere along the way, though, we humans seemed to have lost our sense of giving back to the earth, the reciprocal relationship that is the “essence of life” on earth. I sincerely believe that Pacific lamprey is here to tell us that we need to regain our balance in life. We need to have the eyes to see their true natural beauty and ears to listen to their outcry. It is time we regain our sense of humility and our sense of respect for something that participates in a larger story, a higher order of being (unless, of course, we just want to be another species on earth that comes and goes swiftly…). We have the choice to make here (for the future generations).
Written and performed by Reed Janke & Ralph Lampman
“Power to the Lamprey”
Remixed by Ralph Lampman (“Power to the People” by John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band)