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The Fight For Salmon

As salmon populations continue to decline on the West Coast, policy makers and government officials argue over ways to prevent extinction. But according to Caleen Sisk, spiritual leader and tribal chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in Northern California, the salmon can’t wait much longer. 

Sisk and the Winnemem Wintu’s fight to prevent salmon extinction in the McCloud River of northern California is constantly hampered by government regulations and the tribe’s status as federally unrecognized. Sisk will speak about salmon restoration and her tribe’s other causes at the UO on Jan. 25.

When McCloud River salmon were transported to New Zealand around the turn of the 20th century, they were uprooted from their native waters. In hopes of repairing the natural balance of her home, Sisk says she wants to take salmon from New Zealand and return them to their original river. 

Some organizations seem reluctant to consider this plan. Sisk says that the Federal Bureau of Reclamation recently announced how it will distribute its salmon restoration funds but did not include the Winnemem Wintu tribe in its allocation discussions.

“Our salmon were sent to New Zealand without our consent so you’d think they could be brought back,” Sisk says. “Right now, the conditions are on the breaking edge. If things don’t happen right away, it’s a decision to cause the extinction of the salmon.”

Sisk says she will show clips from her tribe’s documentary on salmon at the UO talk, which will feature a salmon dinner during Sisk’s presentation. 

Jessica Rojas, diversity coordinator for the Women’s Center at the UO, says that tribal-caught salmon will be served in order to support Native American fishing rights. 

“It complements everything Caleen is fighting for,” Rojas says. 

The free talk is at 5 pm Friday, Jan. 25, at the Many Nations Longhouse.