They washed up dead along over the course of two weeks on the banks of the Klamath River in 2002 during a drought, upward of 70,000 Chinook salmon. A 2004 report from the California State Water Resources Control Board concluded the salmon entered the river a week earlier than scheduled and lacked migration cues to proceed upriver. The worst part, the report noted, was that “low flows from Iron Gate Dam was a substantial causative factor.” Bitter disputes erupted, and Theresa May, then a theater instructor at Humboldt State who is now at the University of Oregon, came to observe and interview community members. Salmon is Everything — May’s work based on historical events first staged at the UO in 2011, twice published with essays by OSU Press and performed in a staged reading this weekend with illioo Native Theatre of Eugene (founders Marta Lu Clifford and Lori Tapahonso, pictured with May)— follows three families from separate communities in the Klamath River watershed: an upper Klamath ranching family, a Karuk-Yurok family and an environmentalist and her partner caught in the middle of the conflict. Twenty years later, the issues surrounding the dead Chinook salmon, water rights and cultural rights, still resonate.
A stage reading of Salmon is Everything, presented by Minority Voices Theatre in partnership with illioo Native Theatre, is 7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, and 2 pm Sunday, Sept. 25, at Very Little Theatre’s Stage Left, 2350 Hilyard Street. There will be a post-play discussion after each performance with representatives from local and regional watershed groups and Native community members. Donation.