Upstream Battle

a documentary film by Ben Kempas

Native Americans on the Klamath River
fight for their fish
– against an energy corporation.
Their struggle may trigger
the largest dam removal project in history.
> Read more.

The Hoopa, Yurok, and Karuk Tribes in California

Merv and Wendy George are members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Wendy, a mother of four, spends her days working for the Tribal Council and her nights fishing on the Trinity River, the largest tributary to the Klamath. Her husband runs the Inter-Tribal Fish & Water Commission. They manage to combine traditional Hoopa values and rituals with a very modern “American” lifestyle. He makes regalia from Woodpeckers and plays the drums in a rock’n’roll band.

Richard Myers, a Yurok tribal member, lives a simple life somewhere in the woods along the Lower Klamath, fishing in his old redwood dugout canoe and smoking his own salmon. There’s no public water supply and no electricity grid, so Richard has to generate his own. His 89-year-old mother is still a fluent speaker of Yurok and teaches the language to her grandchildren.

Ron Reed is the son of one of the last full-blooded Karuk. But his mother recently died of diabetes, a common cause of death linked to the radical change in tribal diet. His tribe doesn’t have federally recognised fishing rights, so they can only catch salmon for ceremonial purposes and for research. Ron works as a cultural biologist for his tribe. Craig Tucker, a white environmentalist, is a spin-doctor behind the scenes: He coordinates the Klamath campaign for the Karuk tribe.

Cowboys and Indians: Jeff Mitchell meets a farmer.

Tribes and Farmers in the Upper Basin

As a member of the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, Jeff Mitchell lives upstream from the dams and is totally cut off from the salmon. His neighbours are white farmers like Lynn Long who heavily rely on water for irrigation and on cheap electricity to run their pumps. Greg Addington runs the Klamath Water Users Association and finally helps to turn former enemies – tribes and irrigators – into new allies.

PacifiCorp Energy

Toby Freeman first works as a relicensing manager for PacifiCorp, being in charge of obtaining a new long-term licence for the dams on the Klamath River. After the departure of vice president Robin Furness and the sale of PacifiCorp to Warren Buffett, he changes positions and now is the Regional Community Manager for the Upper Klamath Basin. Toby is supported by PacifiCorp spokesman Dave Kvamme.

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