Water rights is an issue of escalating importance, especially in California, as corporate/government collusion lead to loss of water rights for the people within the region who depend on the sustenance of such natural resources within their geographic area. The contention around the Klamath River, between those whose lives are destroyed by transferring stewardship of the eco-system to those who have no interest in nurturing the eco-system for future generations, epitomizes the consequences of such government/corporate collusion and the inherent loss of life that comes from such corruption. 

(This article has contributions from Gary Lake, past Councilman for the Karuk Tribe and Vice Chairman of the Shasta People, two tribes of Northern California and Oregon who are at war with each other over water and treaty issues.)

klamath (1)Where the sun kisses the horizon behind a berried juniper tree and the lowly buckbrush, mighty Mount Shasta, or Waka–the creator’s footprint–to the people who live there, looks on and grins at the age-old romance. Slowly, a river teases her way through the uncut woods of the Cascade Mountains, through California deserts, and into deep canyons, dancing into the open arms of the sweeping Pacific. To some, whose ancestors’ bones are buried along that river, she is everything. Since ancient times, they have revered the mighty Klamath River, honored her seasons, and allowed her to seduce them into the pleasures of abundance. In turn, they agreed to protect her. The Shasta people are her heart, pulsating, beating, breathing with her and, in times of tragedy, breathing for her.

Their ancestral memories tell stories of tepid waters teaming with life, offering sustenance for winter hunger pains. Cloudy green drops nourish the surrounding forest as the spring crescendo bursts through the pregnant banks and saturates the soil leaving soft footprints of minerals carefully carried from her journey. In the heat of summer, the accompanying land caresses new lives, gently coaxing them as they tentatively embrace the fragility of existence. The crisp crunch of grounded autumnal foliage is a curious contrast to the soothing lullaby of swift currents.

klamath (2)The Klamath River, in all her wild glory, gives life to anyone who needs it, nourishing each tiny cell with her bounty. She is warm. And she provides. She is untamable by any man, but, cultivated and honored, she serves them all. She is forgiving but if you forget her power, she might take your life.

Greed, jealousy and contempt have raped the river of her natural fortitude. Ravenous men with “government”—a word foreign to the ears and hearts of the Shasta—built dams for convenience, power and control, robbing the Klamath of her grace, her natural wildness that fostered her precious plentitude. Her magnificent tears now show the tragedy of destruction. Her banks heave with the forced selection of life within her borders. Her waters teeming with unfamiliar forms.

The river does not belong to the Shasta people; they belong to her. Those who have completely surrendered to her are her heart, her guidance. She carries their souls and ancestral wisdom. Their deep appreciation and the intimate dance of attraction and protection guide them in understanding the river and what she needs. They grieve with her and for her, her pain matched only by their own as they tenderly touch the scars they were unable to save her from. And now, those who would revel in a conquest for their own profit, those who identify with the government that initially defiled her, are ripping her heart from her.

the klamath river and her caretakers vs the carpetbaggersThe Shasta people, a humble tribe thriving on the gifts of the river, had to find a new way of living when the US government methodically destroyed their way of life through broken treaties, soft genocidal practices, and finally with the damming of the Klamath River. As they adjusted to their new, agrarian way of life, still embracing the waters of their precious Klamath to nourish their land, they welcomed their neighbors, looking for wisdom from the earth and searching for the healing they knew would come with many slow revolutions.

Her waters, that bring life-sustaining hydration, are for the people in her embrace, not for the lust-hungry government that desecrated the beautiful river years ago. As such, it is for those who have a sacred agreement with, and deep love for her, to respectfully guide her course into the future. It is for the people of Siskiyou County, as they patiently honor the cycles, and in their keen understanding of the wisdom she shares, to breathe for her until, once again, she has her heart back.

To learn more about the challenges of the Shasta People, the Klamath River and how to take action in securing the water rights for the people of the ancient tribes, and their neighbors who rely on it, please sign up here.


Liz Reitzig

Food is the Foundation of Liberty. Nourishing Liberty is where we plant seeds for ideas to grow and flourish A place to be inspired by each other, to join together in peaceful activism, to build community.

Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.

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