Presbyterians Today

APR-MAY 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | APRIL/MAY 2018 25 R epresentatives from four Columbia River Indian tribes in Oregon — Nez Perce, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation — invited more than two dozen Presbyterians this past fall to participate in a fire and water ceremony. Be'sha Blondin of the Yellowknife tribe led the ceremony, directing participants to pour a cup of water and pieces of tobacco into the river. The ceremony allowed visitors to gain insight into the importance of the river to thousands of Native Americans who have called the region home for centuries. Blondin explained that the ceremony helped to "heal the river" and the tobacco connected the earthly and spiritual realms. The Columbia River snakes through Oregon and Washington with majestic mountains and tall trees on both sides. The gorge is famous for its native history as well as the migration of salmon that have fed people and wildlife alike. But decades of industrial growth have had a negative impact on gorge life, according to those who live in the region. East and upstream from Portland is the Bonneville Dam. Corporate leaders say the complex has gener- ated more than $188 million in electricity at an operating cost of $30 million. Company officials also say they are working on protect- ing the fish that live in the waters, spending millions on habitat restora- tion. A report released in 2017 by the Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, out- lining salmon habitat restoration projects from 2007 to 2015, indicated an improvement in the numbers of fish returning to the Columbia River Basin. Even so, an official with the Bonneville Power Administration said, "We still have a ways to go to achieve our goals." Environmentalists, though, are skeptical. They say the numbers of fish are falling and the river is changing as well. "The Columbia River Basin is estimated to have supported up to 15 million salmon at one time," said Dr. Stan Gregory, with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. "A recent analysis puts that number at 9 million now and this decline has happened in the past 20 years." As the number of dams has increased along the river, Gregory says they've created challenges for salmon to swim upstream, estimat- ing that nearly half don't make it to spawning grounds. Thus, the popula- tion drops and the impact is felt by Native Americans who depend on the salmon to feed their villages and to make a living. A concerned people As Blondin prepared to begin the fire and water ceremony, she shared her concerns about the environment. "If we don't come together as one people and plan to heal Mother Earth, she will not last more than 10 to 25 more years," she said. "We are leaving nothing for our children or grandchildren." Elke and Alysia Littleleaf are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs and operate a fly-fishing business along the river. Elke says the drop in the number of salmon has significantly hurt his business. "We know that the cause is human and it is unnecessary," he said. "If we don't take care of the rivers and oceans, they won't take care of us." Ralph Jones is a native fisher- man who has been on the platforms of Cascade Locks for more than 50 years. "I've been fishing along this river since 1964 and I can say it has changed significantly," he said. "For me, the fish are smaller. There was a time when we would bring in salmon at 30 pounds each. Now they are down to 22 pounds." The construction of dams isn't the only thing threatening the gorge. Proposed development of new oil refineries and the transportation of coal and oil by rail have residents and environmentalists concerned. Conservationist Dan Sears has said the region faces "enormous risk" with the oil-by-rail operation. "An oil spill would threaten the salmon habitat and halt river commerce," he said. In June 2016, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil did derail. Luckily, the oil did not make it to the river, but the derailment did send a plume of black smoke into the air, forcing road closures and the evacuation of schools and homes in the area. Old doctrine still haunts Many Native Americans and environ- mentalists blame the gorge's current Endorsed Mover for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Stevens is proud to deliver over 110 years of family-owned moving expertise and quality services to Presbyterian Church (USA) Members, Clergy and Employees and Educators: • Discounted pricing • Top-rated drivers and crews • Customized moving packages • Stevens Home Protection Kit™ • Free no-obligation move estimate • Single point-of-contact Trust the Stevens Worldwide Van Lines www.stevensworldwide.com/pcusa USDOT 72029 CALL VICKI BIERLEIN: 800.248.8313 Clergy Move Center ™ T h e w a y t o m o v e

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