The Native American Student Union event held in the Stevenson Union courtyard Thursday was a way to direct attention toward the fact that the group had no salmon to offer at what was supposed to be a salmon bake.
"The 'No Salmon, Salmon Bake' was just another way to raise awareness on the cultural genocide that is being carried out in the United States everyday," said Maymi C. Preston, the co-chair holder in NASU and spokesperson for the event.
She explained that the crisis that has hit Oregon and Northern California this year, halting commercial fishing, is historically unprecedented and expected to be economically devastating, and it is largely due to the impact dams have on yearly salmon spawning along rivers like the Snake, Columbia and Klamath.
"The dams are the biggest part of the problem," said Preston.
While the commercial fishing closures off the Oregon coast are unheard of, just down the coastline, the California fishing market has suffered continually from a declining Sacramento River Chinook salmon run that is historically one of the most productive on the Pacific Coast.
The low salmon numbers have led many Native American tribes throughout the Northwest who are permitted to fish salmon, to refuse. The same mentality is being passed on to fishermen affected by the Oregon closure, with some stating that though they realize the hardships the closure will bring, in the long run it will boost salmon numbers.
Native American tribes who have been directly affected by the dwindling salmon numbers have long been the sole voice for dam removal, but now as the problem affects the fishing market and the water passing through the dams poses health risks, limiting its use for agriculture, more people have begun to question if the dams provide more help or harm.
According to a study done by Klamath River Keeper, a group advocating the removal of dams on the Klamath, it is not only passing the dam which takes a serious toll on salmon populations, but the water conditions created by the dams, which result in rapid increases of algae blooms at toxin levels 4,000 times more than the World Health Organization considers a human risk factor.
But good news may soon come for all who depend on good salmon numbers in Oregon and Northern California. Discussions that have taken years to negotiate are being scheduled to focus on dam re-licensing on the Klamath River.
The seven dams on the Klamath, all owned by Pacific Power, a PacifiCorp subsidiary, give energy to more than 70,000 homes in Oregon and are up for federal re-licensing. If the re-licensing doesn’t happen, the result will be the removal of the dams.
Re-licensing is one of the primary reasons for the increase in awareness about the dams, and with the decision soon to be made, groups on both sides of the issue are working hard to remove or grant a 50 year extension on their license.
"The dams are important to many different people in many different ways, but in the long run, their removal will be best for everyone," Preston said.