Background: Kitchen Table Activism (KTA) is a monthly activity by the Rural Organizing Project. The idea is that small actions can lead to powerful collective results when groups of people gather to complete the same action across the state of Oregon. ROP works to keep each KTA easily achievable so that groups with other projects or groups with limited immediate energy can still manage to complete the KTA each month.
WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?
Many people across the state and the country have seen the news about widespread drought in the West, and the water crisis in the Klamath Basin in particular. With national media focusing on what Ammon Bundy’s group, People’s Rights, is doing, Klamath Tribes are continuing the hard work of insisting on upholding their rights and the wellbeing of their homeland. Both tribal government and organized communities members are advocating for a more balanced management of water resources and securing the removal of dams in the Klamath Basin to ensure the survival of C’waam and Koptu fish populations, which are cornerstones of the cultural, spiritual, and economic health of the Tribes.
As one Klamath resident and activist wrote in The Atlantic on the current crisis:
“There’s also an increasing recognition that beyond honoring treaties, returning land and water management responsibilities to the tribes is smart policy, because they are highly motivated to preserve the ecologies that make their homelands home—and they have access to millennia’s worth of detailed ecological knowledge to help them do just that.”
This month’s Kitchen Table Activism is focused on supporting tribal communities on the front lines of water crises. Klamath tribal members alongside Indigenous organizers from multiple countries are working to stop the United Nations from considering dams as clean energy projects, to help ensure that new dams do not get built on undeveloped rivers. Outside the Klamath Basin, the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, and the Nez Perce Tribe, all have treaty and fishing rights along the Snake River and have been organizing for dam removal on the Snake River to restore the salmon population. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have struggled with a broken and contaminated water system for over 5 years. More than 60% of residents lack regular, consistent access to clean water. These are just a few examples of the water crises so many tribal communities are dealing with. We encourage every group in the network to take action in support of Indigenous water sovereignty.
WHY THIS ACTIVITY?
The Klamath Tribes have been organizing for generations to regain full control of their homeland and natural resources and have won serious victories toward that end. The Jordan Cove Pipeline project is no longer moving forward thanks to years of grassroots organizing along the entire route of the pipeline from Klamath to Coos Counties. Tribal communities played a huge role in making sure that the liquid natural gas pipeline was not built. Dam removal efforts are another major project that the Klamath Tribes have been working on for a long time and are now in the final stages of the removal process after years of struggle. It is no coincidence that groups like People’s Rights are leveraging this intense drought to attempt to build power where tribal communities have been leading incredible campaigns to successfully regain control over the natural resources in their homelands. We know this could happen anywhere, and as communities throughout the region build power, showing up for one another is key to the success of all these campaigns.
HOW TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY:
- Gather your human dignity group over zoom or in person.
- Watch two short videos produced by Klamath leaders Killing the Klamath and the trailer for Undammed as a group and discuss them. Some questions you might consider are:
- Who’s telling the story of water or other natural resources in your community and whose stories are missing?
- How is or how could your group take action to support Indigenous sovereignty across the state or your own area?
- Support these efforts to bolster Indigenous water sovereignty:
- Klamath Tribal organizers are calling on the United Nations to stop considering dams to be clean energy projects. Send a letter of support by following the link above, and make sure to help them spread the word through your networks!
- The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council is working to remove dams along the Snake River. Sign their petition by following the link above, and make sure to help them spread the word through your networks!
- Contribute to the Chúush Fund, which accepts donations to directly benefit the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs as they work to restore their access to clean water.
- Connect with tribal communities in your area to get engaged in local efforts to strengthen Indigenous sovereignty:
- Does your group already have relationships with tribal communities in your area? Who could you reach out to and build new relationships with?
- What efforts are priorities for tribal communities in your area?
- Do they have campaigns or actions already in motion that your group can support? Are there campaigns that you all could work on together?
- Tell us about the relationships you formed and how you took action by reaching out to your county organizer or to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!