Native Youth Call for Dam Removal

You may have met the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Youth Leadership Council at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session, or read about them in last month’s ROPnet about Human Dignity Awards. In today’s ROPnet, we want to share with you the full story of their powerful campaign to remove the four lower Snake River Dams! 

For the CTUIR Youth Leadership Council, reviving the salmon population in the Snake River is about maintaining a core component of their culture that was reserved for (not given to) them in the 1855 Treaty. In their letter to President Biden, they advocated for equal access to justice, stating “America made a deal and promised that we would be able to fish forever. We can’t fish if there aren’t any salmon left.” For more context about CTUIR history, check out this slide presentation.

Members of the council stand on the bank of a river.

In addition to traveling to conferences and events around the country to spread the word about their petition and build up their organizing skills, the Youth Leadership Council is doing a lot at home on the reservation! Their main focuses right now are drawing attention to mental health and drug and alcohol use, deepening relationships with their elders, participating in cultural classes, and cleaning up their local environment. 

The Youth Leadership Council shares the importance of removing the four lower Snake River Dams in their petition, which you can read below or online here. While you’re at it, take 30 seconds to sign their petition! Then let us know what this brings up for you or what action it inspires you to take in your community by emailing sidra@rop.org

Stand with Native Youth: Support Removal of the Snake River Dams

“America made a deal and promised that we would be able to fish forever. We can’t fish if there aren’t any salmon left.” – Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council in their letter to President Biden

Stand with us in our call to President Biden to REMOVE the four lower Snake River dams and save salmon from extinction. Sign this petition and share it widely! 

As members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council, we are calling on President Biden to remove the four lower Snake River dams. These dams impact our right to fish under the tribe’s treaty with the United States.

If these dams aren’t removed soon, Snake River salmon will go extinct. Over the past two centuries, 400 barriers—including the four lower Snake River dams—have been built throughout the Columbia River basin, destroying traditional fishing sites and devastating salmon populations that Indigenous communities in the Northwest, like ours, have depended on for generations. The construction and continued operation of these dams violate our treaty fishing rights and the rights of many other tribes across the Northwest. 

Not only are salmon a critical food source, they’re also a part of our spiritual and cultural identity. In our language we are the “Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum” (salmon people). “Wy-kan-ish” (salmon) are important for our sacred life renewal ceremonies, our daily food, and for our economy. The salmon that swim from the “Naxiyam Wana” (Snake River) and “Nchi’- Wana” (Columbia River), into the Pacific Ocean, are family to us. They are “Wy-kan-ush Naymuma” (our salmon relatives). 

On June 9, 2021, we sent a letter calling on elected leaders and requesting a meeting with President Biden. We’ve been asked to wait for decades. Salmon are dying and we can’t wait any longer. 

Sign our petition and stand with us in our call on President Biden to remove the four lower Snake River dams and save salmon from extinction.

Read the full letter to President Biden from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council here. The extinction of salmon means the continued erasure of Native peoples and the destruction of Native culture. Without salmon, future generations will not inherit values and teachings that have been passed down for thousands of years.

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