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  • The Klamath River, this nearly 300 mile river runs through Oregon

  • and to the Northern California coast.

  • And for the last century, dams have decimated this once abundant resource and blocked the

  • route of salmon and steelhead.

  • But this isn't a story about the fish.

  • With this next documentary we learned about the Yurok tribe, this 1000 year old community

  • relies on the river for survival, but over the years have learned to be resilient as

  • they aim to restore clean water and food to their community.

  • If you want more about how this documentary was made, stick around to the end where we

  • get a little Q&A with the filmmaker.

  • And now from American Rivers and Swiftwater Films, this is "Guardians of the River."

  • Everything around us, it's all tied into this one beautiful place.

  • And it just inspires us to take care of this place.

  • And that ties into our values as indigenous people.

  • If you take care of yourself and make sure your self is healthy enough to take care of

  • your family and make sure they're taking care of themselves, then it should inspire everybody

  • to take care of the land that we all need.

  • It all starts with being able to catch that fish and bring it home to your family.

  • I love being down here.

  • I love seeing our family fish.

  • I love seeing them drift.

  • But how much longer do we have?

  • Back in the day you did this all year round, you caught fish in the spring, there was fish in

  • the fall and there was fish in the summer.

  • But nowadays, it's only this one time a year where we get a really good fish run.

  • And it's really sad because this fish run is so small, there's not going to be enough

  • fish pulled out of this river to give every tribal member one fish.

  • So we do the best that we can to make sure that we share the fish that we do get with

  • people who might not get the ability to come down here and catch it themselves.

  • My grandpa thought he'd never see the day where he'd catch less than 50 fish

  • when he went fishing.

  • Now we come out here with three teams.

  • And we're lucky to catch seven fish.

  • But reality of it is that our people need to be fed.

  • You know, the salmon are so important to everything that we've come to understand

  • as Yurok people, that without the salmon, our way of life is impossible.

  • Being a Yurok person, the river is our lifeblood.

  • It's just as important as the air we breathe.

  • The Klamath Basin is really big as stretches from southern Oregon down into northern California

  • then goes out into the Pacific Ocean.

  • It's really diverse as far as the physical aspects of it.

  • And also the biological aspects of it.

  • Historically, this was the third largest salmon producing river on the west coast.

  • There's been significant declines in all anadromous fisheries to a point where some fish have

  • been extirpated from this river system.

  • There's probably a number of reasons why things have changed so drastically.

  • But one of the main reasons is those dams that were put in and basically cut the watershed

  • in half and took away 400 miles of anadromous spawning habitat.

  • These dams have such a big effect on our lives.

  • And when you're younger, it feels like people are talking about or like a monster or something

  • at the head of the river.

  • And they're not used for irrigation.

  • They make a small percentage of what Pacific power and Berkshire energy's profit is.

  • Where river should be naturally fluctuating up and down.

  • These dams are regulating the water flow towards one kind of stagnant flow.

  • So it allows algae all along the bottom of the river to pop up and grow and just flourish.

  • At times the Klamath River and the reservoirs behind the Klamath dams can be

  • 1000s of times higher than the threshold that is recommended for humans to be in.

  • So the water is toxic, extremely toxic, and then that water is in turn

  • released down the Klamath River

  • State of California says that you're not supposed to drink it, you're not supposed to swim in it.

  • You let your animals drink it they possibly die.

  • You come out with sores.

  • It's just become a part of our norm which it shouldn't be.

  • And it's... it's sad to see...

  • it's disgusting.

  • For like the next generations to come.

  • Or my kids or my kids' kids to be able to swim

  • and fish and not worry.

  • Another very serious impact that we believe dams are responsible for is some fish disease

  • issues that we have in the river.

  • One fish disease in particular that we're we're really concerned

  • about is called Ceratonova shasta

  • We call it C. Shasta, it's deadly to juveniles.

  • 90% of the fish sampled have this disease.

  • Another disease aspect that is exacerbated by dams is a fish disease that we study here

  • in the lower river called "ich".

  • It's a parasite that attacks fish gills.

  • Dams warm the water unnaturally and so warm water can lead to delays in migration here

  • on the lower River.

  • And we can get congregations of fish.

  • Congregations lead to stressed out adult Chinook salmon and stressed fish are susceptible to diseases.

  • "Ich" is responsible for the 2002 Klamath River Fishkill, where we lost over 60,000 adult

  • Chinook salmon as they were returning upstream, here's. It's the largest salmon die off in United

  • States history happened right here on the Klamath River.

  • Saddest part of my life.

  • So we believe that fishes are our relative so we're here to take care of them like they take care of us.

  • Every year, there's this fear that builds up in us right that we're gonna see those

  • fish, you know, floating down the river dead and stinky again.

  • And that hurts so much.

  • That's basically what started Climate Justice Coalition and us getting together to start

  • this campaign to un-dam the Klamath.

  • We've worked really hard for a long time on this.

  • Man, it feels like we're just right there at the finish line to get these dams taken out.

  • We've dedicated years of our lives, our young lives, to give opportunity for the next generation

  • to live on healthy dam-free river.

  • Unfortunately, we've had to raise our children in this way to have to fight for what we live

  • for, for what we believe in.

  • Not because we want to, it's because we have to.

  • Right, it's an obligation for us to take care of this place to take care of us.

  • In Yurok we call it Ney-puey.

  • So this has been one of the main staples for the Yurok people

  • for nutritional diet for over thousands of years.

  • So I'll come through and I'll de-fin and then I'll pass over the master filleter.

  • Women are very important in our culture, we build our people up.

  • By 11, I was making my own gear and able to go out and

  • pretty much feed myself.

  • feed my family.

  • My great grandparents, they did a fish war here,

  • fought the American government just for fishing rights.

  • And they actually had people with riot gear beating us natives down here just for setting nets.

  • Every time he set a net.

  • Guaranteed.

  • They'd come through and try to pull it.

  • And so us locals had to fight them off.

  • I'm glad they did.

  • Because wouldn't be able to take you guys out and show you how our way of life today.

  • It's something that affects us every day.

  • Because I can't just go to the grocery store, buy some salmon.

  • I grew up with a gas station, like eating at a 711 every day.

  • I don't think very many people can live like that.

  • What we know is that the river is no longer providing for us like it should be.

  • So it can no longer... you know... provide subsistence of salmon for every family.

  • So we have to find these different ways to provide for our people.

  • And we want people to stand up.

  • We want people to fight for their rights.

  • We want people to be there.

  • But in reality, if you don't have enough food for your family at home, how are you going

  • to be able to go out and stand up for your rights halfway across the country or go to

  • these protests and how are you supposed to dedicate large portions of your time.

  • If you're worried about not having healthy food access in your home, you can't.

  • And it's just a part of the system that's been constantly pressing our people to the point of normalization.

  • If someone told us that we would be growing vegetables this time last year or told me

  • that this is what I would be doing or we would be doing as like a unit...

  • I would've told them they were crazy.

  • The education of it or the resource for the education wasn't there.

  • And we're just trying to show people that how easy it is to actually grow their own food.

  • Growing your food like this and growing your garden like this is like unheard of.

  • And for us as fishermen, to be out here, making these types of move, to find out what people

  • like, to find out what people need, it's really kind of cutting edge for our community, because

  • it hasn't really been tried, hasn't really been done before.

  • We stopped by a house today.

  • And they said they don't like cabbage.

  • So they're getting specific on us.

  • And that's good.

  • I had someone who stopped by someone's house today and what did they say?

  • They said that the broccoli is so fresh, that cooked it four days, five days after we gave

  • it to him.

  • And it looked like they just pulled it out of the ground.

  • A lot of people told us we couldn't do it, we weren't gonna be able to get a garden.

  • We walked away from those people.

  • And we found the people who believed in us.

  • And I said, You know what, if we work really hard, and we push forward,

  • you guys would be feeding people by the end of the year.

  • And

  • it's happening.

  • Okay, love you guys.

  • These are hard working families,

  • They take care of their kids and other people in the community.

  • We're teaching families how to take care of yourself, over hundreds of generations our families have developed

  • the resiliency that can't be that can't beat. That can't be destroyed.

  • And no matter what happens, no matter what you take away, we're always going to provide

  • for people, we're always going to find a way to take care of our children, we're always

  • going to find a way to move forward.

  • This river is our umbilical cord, what feeds us and what nurtures us.

  • This reciprocal relationship that we have with it, I would do anything for this river, just like I would my own children

  • like I, I would die for it, I would do anything before I would give up on it.

  • There was a generation before me, who dedicated their whole lives, just to make sure that

  • these dams are removed.

  • We must never forget that the salmon are more than just creatures of the water.

  • They are people just like me and you.

  • They wouldn't give up on us.

  • We shouldn't give up on them.

  • We have the chance to make the world right here.

  • Do the right thing.

  • Take the dams down.

  • We're not gonna give up this fight to get these dams out of this river.

  • Like, if this doesn't work, if this current iteration of dam removal doesn't work, well,

  • we'll move on to the next.

  • I imagine a world where we live in harmony with the river.

  • And I see that as I see that possibility.

  • Every aspect of my life has been built around this river,

  • whether it be teaching the next generation,

  • these are skills of organizing, or whether it be providing food for my family.

  • Nothing says Northern California like cooking on a redwood skewer on open flame.

  • Sammy, and these young folks, they're really outspoken and it makes me feel good that

  • we've taught them how to how to do that.

  • They're all coming that age and they all know they got to stand up.

  • You know, it's their time.

  • You guys are doing the ancestral guard, food sovereignty.

  • Like that's a slap in the face of all these systems.

  • I think that's that's the way it has to be.

  • We have to be willing to put effort into things.

  • Our survival depends on how we re-indigenize and live like we're meant to live again.

  • After these dams are removed all that power is going to be put directly into building these healthy

  • opportunities for our people.

  • Now Let's talk to the filmmaker, shall we?

  • My name is Shane Anderson.

  • I'm a film director and producer.

  • And I'm in Olympia, Washington.

  • About a year and a half ago, I started a five year documentary on the Klamath dam removals,

  • which will be the largest river restoration the world's ever seen.

  • And kind of in the in the process of development and seeking out the stories, I got to meet

  • some of the characters that we featured in "Guardians of the River" and Sammy Gensaw.

  • and I just found him to be extremely inspirational person, and spent a significant amount of

  • time with him before we actually decided to film the piece to kind of understand their story

  • and wanted to really make sure we were telling the story that helped their cause, and kind

  • of be an outlet for them, you know, providing our tools to amplify their voice.

  • I think just first and foremost is kind of being conscious of extractive storytelling

  • and not coming into a community, not just the tribe, but any community when you're a

  • filmmaker, being sensitive to, you know, not exploit their story for your purpose, you

  • know, so I just really wanted to make sure that everybody involved was comfortable, and

  • that they were kind of involved during the process, too.

  • I think just being open minded, being aware that you're in someone else's space, it's

  • a very powerful medium.

  • So use that power carefully, and to the best of your abilities to provide content that

  • your subjects will be happy with.

  • From my understanding, just a lot of trial and error.

  • And we were all shocked at how how well the garden did, and just how beautiful the

  • vegetables were.

  • And I know they have plans now to expand it was such a success this year, and they were

  • able to grow so much food and deliver it and hand deliver it to their community.

  • And people loved it.

  • I talked to Sammy, and they were gonna do another garden up river and kind of spent

  • the fall building garden boxes in Crescent City, kind of tribal community housing.

  • So there's kind of urban gardens they're doing too.

  • So the