Advocates for Klamath Dam removal are working with the Indigenous Peoples’ Power Project to provide direct action workshops and skills trainings as they increase pressure on the world’s richest man, Warren Buffett, to remove his fish killing dams on the Klamath River.
According to a statement from the Klamath Justice Coalition, the direct action training sessions aim “to empower locals and provide additional tactics to pressure Warren Buffett’s PacifiCorp to remove the lower four Klamath River dams.” The latest training session was held Wednesday, July 30th at the Hoopa Youth Center on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. A previous session was conducted in Klamath on the Yurok Indian Reservation.
“We’ve been campaigning hard for five years and still the company refuses to take responsibility for the dams’ destruction of our fishery and communities,” said Chook-Chook Hillman, one of the event organizers. “So it’s time we consider more aggressive tactics.”
The latest workshop attracted 16 participants ranging from children to elders. “These workshops are meant to get new blood from different walks of life to engage in direct action in our campaign to remove PacifiCorp’s Klamath dams,” said Georgiana Myers, Yurok Tribal Member and the Klamath Riverkeeper outreach coordinator. “They are being held to prepare for the nonviolent direct action camp that will be conducted in Orleans from August 22 to 24.”
On September 18, the Klamath Justice Coalition will hold their “Day of Action Against PacifiCorp” in Portland, Oregon, where the utility is headquartered. Supporters willl assemble at Holladay Park at the corner of NE Multnomah and 11th Street in downtown Portland at 12 noon. From there they will march to PacifiCorp’s headquarters for a rally featuring speakers from Tribal, fishing, and conservation communities.
The Indigenous Peoples’ Power Project, or IP3, is a special project of the Ruckus Society based in Oakland, CA. The project is committed “to empowering a new generation of young native leaders emerging across the continent, who are bringing innovation, creativity and inspiration to struggles to keep their homelands from becoming wastelands.”
“We don’t want a lack of tactics or tools to slow down our effort to restore the Klamath,” said Hillman. “We have invited IP3 here to add some creativity to our campaign and help us think strategically about how to influence people like Warren Buffett.”
On May 3 this year, Hillman personally challenged Buffett to his face at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Hillman, a 23-year-old Karuk Fatawan (world renewal priest), who fasted last year with other young world renewal priests in an unsuccessful effort to force a meeting with the tycoon, introduced himself in the Karuk language before he questioned Buffett.
“As a European-American, you are the visitor in our country. Will you not meet with the native people impacted by your fish-killing dams?” he asked Buffett. “You say you want to address poverty and disease in the Third World, but you are creating those same Third World conditions right here in America. We want to meet and resolve the issue in a way that saves you money and saves our culture!”
IP3 organizers worked with the Tribal and community members that attended the Berkshire Hathaway meeting in May. The group “crashed” a shareholder cocktail reception the night before the shareholder meeting by unfolding a large banner and holding a lively protest in front of a Berkshire-Hathaway owned diamond and jewelry store.
The next day, the group dominated the popular question and answer session Buffett hosts each year in front of 30,000 shareholders – and spotlighted the battle to remove Klamath River dams before the national and international media that covered the meeting. Hillman and several others hammered Buffett with Klamath related questions and followed each question with a banner hang inside the Qwest Center.
“Disrupting the shareholders’ meeting of the richest man on earth was very empowering,” said Hillman. “I think that now its time for Tribes, fishermen, and communities to all join together to let Buffett know that as long as there is no business as usual on the Klamath, there will be no business as usual for Berkshire Hathaway or PacifiCorp either.”
I covered the protest at the shareholders meeting and agree with Hilllman that the protest was “very empowering.” I was impressed by the creative and spirited tactics of the dedicated group of Klamath Dam removal advocates, including many young members of the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes.
“I really enjoyed going to the protest in Omaha – a lot of eyes were opened by our presence at the shareholders meeting,” said Myers. “I think we really rattled Buffett’s cage.”
However, when she came back home to California, she became even more convinced of the pressing need to remove the Klamath dams.
“We don’t have a lot of time left – the river is already low, shallow and warm and every day the blue green algae on the river gets a little worse,” she explained. “When I go to Crescent City and other towns along the coast, my heart goes out to the fishermen whose boats are tied up at the dock because of the salmon closure. We can’t wait for 20 years to restore the river – we don’t have that time.”
A broad coalition of Klamath River Indian Tribes, commercial fishing groups, recreational angling organizations and environmental groups is pushing for the removal of four PacifiCorp’ dams on the river. The coalition aims to restore chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead to their historic spawning grounds in Klamath tributaries above the dams. The removal of the dams would open up more than 300 miles of the Klamath watershed to anadromous fish for the first time in over 90 years.
The training took place as recreational and salmon fishing in the ocean off California and Oregon and sport fishing in Central Valley rivers is closed for the first time ever this year, due to the collapse of the Sacramento River fall chinook salmon run. Although this year it was the decline of Central Valley salmon that led to the closure, two years ago commercial and recreational fishing off the California and southern Oregon coast was severely restricted because of the decline of Klamath River fall run chinook salmon, spurred by the huge Klamath fish kills of 2002.
In July, PacifiCorp sent a letter to the State of California withdrawing its water quality permit application, surprising activists who were planning to attend hearings regarding the permit over the coming week. Some activists were hoping this move was a sign that an agreement between the utility and state and federal agencies over dam removal would be reached soon. If the dams come down, more than 300 miles of the Klamath would be opened to anadromous fish for the first time in more than 90 years.
For more information: contact Georgiana Myers at 707-599-0877, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Klamath Justice Coalition is a group of Klamath Basin community activists dedicated to the restoration of the Klamath River and the removal of PacifiCorp’s lower four Klamath River dams.
Good resources for learning more about PacifiCorp’s destructive Klamath dams can be found at:
DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com