When the spring salmon returned, the tribes of the Klamath River in northern California welcomed them with an ancient ritual. But that was when the salmon still came.
Yesterday the four tribes were dancing and chanting again, this time on a pavement in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
As shareholders piled into energy utility giant ScottishPower's annual meeting, the four tribes of the Klamath River, in traditional dress, sang and danced before them. It was the latest round in a battle to shame one of Britain's most successful companies into being environmentally responsible.
The Klamath tribes have already lodged a US$1 billion lawsuit in the US courts against PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of ScottishPower, alleging that the company's dams have destroyed the Klamath's fish population and wiped out species. But yesterday they opted to embarrass the parent company.
"I have traveled all this way because the dams mean that I have never been able to see a salmon in my part of my river. They have denied me my birthright," said Gail Hatcher of the Klamath tribe.
The Klamath River, which snakes from Oregon into northern California, is central to the religion, philosophy and daily lives of the river's four tribes: the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath. For more than seven millennia, native Americans have used the Klamath for worship, healing and food. But since the first dam was built in 1916, the river's ability to provide food has been drastically reduced.
Now its tribes are fighting back.
"We evolved around the river, so everything around us -- our religion, our philosophy our food -- is connected to that place," said Leaf Hillman, vice chairman of the Karuk tribe. "We have lived there since time began, and so have the fish. Our dependence is reciprocal. The fish and the river have provided for us for all those years. Now it is our turn to pay them back."
Before the first dam was built on the Klamath, about a million salmon would return to it from the Pacific each year to spawn. Today a return of 100,000 fish is considered good.
Although the Klamath's tribes say that fish populations have been dwindling since the construction of the first dam, the devastating decline came in the 1960s, when the final dam was built. It was then that the tribes had to stop their spring ritual as there were no salmon to welcome home.
"When I was young we would catch 100 lampreys in a night," Hillman said. "Now if a fisherman catches 100 lampreys in a season it is considered good. It is not just the salmon that are affected."
Some 10,000 Native Americans eke out a living on the river. Tribal elders estimate that 40 percent of them live below the poverty line.
The tribes say the way the dams have been managed in recent years is having an increasingly detrimental effect. In 2002 a combination of drought and water management saw 33,000 fish die in the Klamath.
The tribes decided to slap their lawsuit on PacifiCorp and ScottishPower after the company reneged on an agreement to place fish ladders on the Klamath. Federal licenses to run the dams are up for renewal and, mindful of the tribes' lobbying, PacifiCorp agreed to install the fish ladders. Then it changed its mind, offering to catch the salmon downstream and transport them up the river.
"They wanted to catch them and truck them upriver. It's laughable," said Jennifer Miller, a Klamath.
In truth, the tribes' lawsuit probably has little chance of success. In recent years there have been four separate actions against utility companies by Native American tribes. On each occasion, the courts have ruled in favor of the power company.
But the dispute is proving hugely embarrassing. The dams produce 150MW of electricity, only 2 percent of PacifiCorp's output.
Tribal leaders met Scottish-Power's directors on Thursday and were yesterday allowed to speak at the meeting. A company spokesman said tersely: "We held constructive talks on a very complex subject."
The tribes are hoping for progress. Hillman said: "They told us we did not need to come. But for dec-ades they have ignored us. Maybe now they will listen."
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference