Cali native tribe turns to GoFundMe for salmon restoration project
At a time when climate change, dams and industrial water extraction for Big Ag threaten the future of California’s salmon, federal biologists agree with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that salmon must return to the glacial waters of the McCloud River above Shasta Dam in order to survive.
By Dan Bacher
This June, the tribe and our allies are joining forces with GoFundMe to raise $85,000. This will help fund the collection of samples of the winter-run salmon in New Zealand, descendants of the same salmon that once spawned in the McCloud River.
UC-Davis fish biologists will perform DNA testing on these samples to prove to the federal government that these are indeed the direct descendants of the McCloud River winter run salmon. After a seven-year campaign to get the attention of federal agencies, this is a major step in bringing the Chinook home.
These wild chinook salmon once ran in the millions and were the center of the Winnemem Wintu tribe’s spiritual and cultural world. More than 70 years since the last salmon spawned in the McCloud River, we’re asking for good hearted people to join us in our historic efforts to return the salmon through a plan based on indigenous leadership and traditional ecological knowledge.
In the late 1800s and early 1900’s, federal fish culturists shipped winter-run salmon from the McCloud River around the world. While their salmon thrived in the Rakaia River in New Zealand, they were blocked from returning to the McCloud River in the 1940s with the construction of Shasta Dam, a project that also flooded the Winnemem homelands.
After years of meetings with the US Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries and a successful lobbying during the 2016 Run4Salmon, the Bureau of Reclamation agreed to support the tribe’s project by setting aside partial funding for the first phase in support of the sample gathering, but an additional $85,000 is needed to ensure the samples are collected this spawning season. The tribe’s ultimate plan for the salmon’s return involves building a swimway using existing creeks around the dam to the McCloud River so the salmon can be restored to their rightful place in the natural world.
Read their plan to return the salmon here: www.water.ca.gov/…
To build support last fall, Chief Caleen Sisk led the Run4Salmon, a two-week journey tracing the historical path of our salmon from the mouth of the Bay-Delta estuary to the McCloud River. The Run4Salmon was a prayer for the protection of the waters, the restoration of the salmon and continuance of indigenous lifeways that are currently under attack by Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels proposal, Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, and other mega-projects that would further degrade our rivers and the estuary the salmon need to survive.
Just as DAPL threatens the future of the Standing Rock Sioux, the salmon extinction endanger the future of the Winnemem Wintu people and other California salmon tribes. The salmon are vital to clean rivers and reducing the temperatures in our waterways, making their survival important for all humans, especially as we face the challenges of climate change. That is why we fight for them.
The gofundme page: bit.ly/salmonwillrun
Chief Caleen Sisk: “This is our pipeline, and we have to wake the people up before we are standing in front of bulldozers because we will do that also”
Gary Mulcahy: “We are setting out to do something that has never been done before.”
Corrina Gould: “. . .The salmon that came up our rivers and took care of my ancestors are the same salmon that spawn on Chief Caleen’s river and took care of her ancestors as well.
Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Hereditary Chief and Spiritual Leader
Gary Mulcahy, Government Liaison
Michael Preston (Pomtahatot Tuiimyali), Cultural Preservation Officer