News Release

Save California Salmon

On July 22, Klamath River, Hoopa Valley and North Coast Tribal youth and their families gathered in Klamath, California to tour in Yurok traditional canoes and to learn about Yurok canoe culture, the Klamath dam removal processes and how they as youth can advocate for the river. As well as being able to help carve a canoe and create art and videos, youth were encouraged to engage in public processes related to the Klamath River, including the dam removal hearings that are happening this week.

12 year old K’nek’nek’ Lowry, a youth advocate who has worked with Save California Salmon explained why water protection is important to youth. “Water is sacred and is part of every living being’s life. It’s important for kids to have a connection to water. In Yurok culture, when the men sweat they come out and bathe themselves in water. Water cleanses our bodies, minds, and spirits. The dams are the biggest threat to our water here. Kids can be Water Protectors by understanding water is alive and has a Spirit.”

This camp and other Save California Salmon (SCS), the Yurok Tribe’s, and the Blue Lake Rancheria’s Pathmaker’s program summer youth activities are part of implementing the “Advocacy and Water Protection in Native California Curriculum,” and other Tribally-led education initiatives. The Yurok Tribe’s Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours and the Blue Lake Rancheria were part of the development of the curriculum.

Josh Norris, Manager of Yurok Country Visitor Center and Canoe Tours explains he does this because, “Growing up I had very few opportunities to interact with Yurok canoe culture, but when I did I felt an instant connection to my ancestors and the immense spiritual power of these vessels developed over countless generations. I want young people today to have the opportunity to feel that sense of power and connection every day of their lives so they can be more effective as leaders and water protectors.”

Helping youth that have been suffering from the learning loss and the mental health impacts of COVID-19 engage in healthy outdoor educational opportunities, and to crereate projects that inspire them to protect their watersheds and help their communities is a goal of Save California Salmon this summer.

“Water protection education and youth led events are important because although anyone can decide to be a water protector and do their part, there are ways to refine our ability to get our messages across,” explained Brook Thompson, a Yurok Tribal youth that works for Save California Salmon. “For example we are doing media trainings to show how we can create more engaging and professional videos so our audience is more tuned and immersed into the message of water protection.”

“Taking traditional canoes out and training on the river we are fighting to protect grounds us to what we are actually fighting for and provides for a magical time. The family atmosphere and diversity in ages at our events leads to collaboration, inspiration from older peers and adult mentors, and re-energization from younger campers.”

The canoe camp is part of this effort and was supported by SCS Yurok and Hoopa Tribal youth interns. Interns are hosting river clean ups, media and public comment workshops and projects, along with river clean up and river safety initiatives.

On July 10th. Save California Salmon, in coordination with the Hoopa Valley Tribe and K’ima:w Medical Center’s Native Connections Project hosted a Trinity River Clean up in Hoopa, California.

Next weekend on July 31 and August 1 Save California Salmon (SCS) and Redwoods and Rivers in collaboration with K’ima:w Medical Center’s Native Connections Project, Two Feathers Family Services and Hoopa youth organizers, are sponsoring a two-day White Water Safety course for Trinity and Klamath River Tribal youth, and those who work with them, at Tish Tang campground. Spaces are still open for native youth interested in taking the training. Registration is at tinturl.com/WhiteWaterSafety.

The Advocacy and Water Protection in Native California curriculum and teacher’s resource project was created by Save California Salmon, the Blue Lake Rancheria, the Yurok Country Visitor Center, KTJUSD’s Indian Education Program, Humboldt County’s Pathmakers Program, Humboldt State University’s (HSU) Native American Studies Department, and the Hoopa High School Water Protector’s Club. The curriculum features online, classroom, and nature-based learning and meets California State Standards in Science, Social Studies, Health, History and Language Arts. It responds to California’s urgent water, climate and educational crises, along with the need for culturally informed education and representation in schools.

The curriculum is based on the Advocacy and Water Protection in Native California Summer Speaker Series that was developed by Save California Salmon and HSU’s Native American Studies Department that features lessons from Native leaders that work in law, land and water management, fisheries conservation, philanthropy, art, language, food security, health, policy and youth organizing. The curriculum integrates knowledge from Native American leaders in each lesson--a perspective that is often missing in California education. It was created in the wake of reports that Humboldt, Del Norte, and other counties are failing Native students, and that Native youth are facing a mental health crisis due to COVID-19 and the state’s water and climate crises.

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