River Watch Header Image

RIVER OF RENEWAL WINS AWARD

RIVER OF RENEWAL WINS AWARD AT AMERICAN INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL

San Francisco, CA River of Renewal, a film describing the Klamath Basin tribes¹ struggle to establish fishing rights, restore river flows, and remove dams, won the Best Documentary Award at the American Indian Film Festival. The film’s title may be prophetic. Just two days before Saturday’s award ceremony in the Palace of Fine Arts, PacifiCorp signed an agreement in principle with the Secretary of the Interior and the governors of California and Oregon to remove the four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. River of Renewal follows Jack Kohler, a self described Œsidewalk Indian¹ who grew up in San Francisco. The audience follows Jack on a journey of self discovery in the land of his Karuk and Yurok ancestors. Jack learns not only about the ancient cultural traditions of his people, but also their modern day struggles to defend tribal rights and the Klamath River. ³The story moves from the fish wars of the 1970s to the current fight

to remove Klamath River dams,² explains Kohler. ³I hope audiences learn some of what I learned on my journey. Native People are still here performing their ceremonies, speaking their languages, fighting for their rights and making progress.² Using interviews, archival sources, and contemporary cinematography, River of Renewal documents acts of protest and civil disobedience by Klamath Basin stakeholders whose ways of life are jeopardized by the decline of the region’s wild salmon. These dramatic scenes include “protest fishing” by gillnetters in response to a federal ban on Indian fishing in 1978, the Bucket Brigade by Klamath Project farmers to protest a water cut-off complying with the Endangered Species Act in 2001, a commercial fisherman’s demonstration in San Francisco in response to the curtailment of the salmon fishing season in 2006, and guerrilla theater by tribal members who crashed Warren Buffett’s shareholders’ party this year to protest the refusal of Pacificorp, a subsidiary of his company Berkshire Hathaway, to agree to the removal of Klamath River dams. The nonbinding agreement that Pacificorp just signed does not require dam removal to begin until 2020, and numerous political and financial hurdles must be cleared before then. But if this plan succeeds, it will be the largest river restoration ever achieved.