youth run along the Klamath River to symbolize the migration
(photo courtesy of Viv Orcutt)
for the annual salmon run to begin, Hoopa youth line up along
the Klamath River.
(photo courtesy of Viv Orcutt)
Hundreds of Hoopa youth and community members ran two-mile sprints
along the Klamath River on Friday to represent the spring salmon
migration and to raise awareness about the struggles faced by the
The run has been hosted along the river for the past 13 years
and was started by students from Hoopa Valley High School in response
to the death of an estimated 68,000 Chinook salmon caused by low
water levels in 2002, according to a Hoopa Valley Tribal Fisheries
Participants carry a salmon-shaped baton and run two-mile segments
of the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean to the South
Fork of the Trinity River before passing the baton to the
next runner. This symbolizes the migration of the salmon and helps
educate youth on the plight of the salmon, according to the release.
"The salmon's struggles are our struggles. For that short time
we take on their struggles," said Erica Chase, an event co-founder
and Hoopa Valley tribal member.
While many conservation efforts focus on the science and politics
of protecting the salmon, the yearly run also incorporates the spiritual
importance of the salmon to the Hupa people.
Following the run, a long-held Hoopa tradition called the First
Salmon Ceremony is conducted. During the ceremony, a salmon is cooked
and eaten by designated people who then commit to not eat salmon
for a year. This abstinence is a part of the medicine to insure
the continuance of the salmon, according to Viv Orcutt, a Hoopa
Valley tribal member.
Orcutt said the salmon, and their spring migration, are an important
part of the tribe's culture and creation story.
"The creator made these salmon fattier because he knew we were
just coming out of the lean months, the winter months. He did it
that way to take care of the animals and the people," Orcutt said.
But salmon have faced many troubles in past years. In addition
to the adult fish kill in 2002, juvenile salmon have been recently
dying as a result of a parasite called Ceratomyxa shasta. All of
the juvenile salmon tested in the Shasta to Scott reach of the Klamath
River tested positive for the parasite as of April 30. As of May
4, all the salmon tested from the Scott to Salmon reach of the river
were also infected, according to fish monitoring data from the US
Fish and Wildlife's California-Nevada Fish Health Center.
And the chances of juvenile salmon dying along other areas of
the Klamath is becoming more likely as research finds increased
numbers of the parasite between the Iron Gate Dam in Siskiyou County
and the Weitchpec River, according to the Klamath Basin Monitoring
Orcutt said the run is a way to educate the youth of the community.
Children of the community have also been learning about the salmon
in other ways, by taking field trips to see their migration patterns.
"Elders in the community have been joining the kids and talking
to them about passing along the responsibility and about why we
need to fight," Orcutt said.
Tribal members have been fighting for the salmon in other ways.
In 2000, the tribe helped secure long-term water supplies in the
Trinity River with the adoption of the Trinity River Record of Decision,
which redirected 250,000 acre feet of water from the Central Valley
back to the river, according to the release.
The tribe has also led efforts to secure additional water in
the lower Klamath to avoid another fish kill, something that has
been contested in federal court by Central Valley farmers.
The annual run is just one of the many ways the Hoopa Valley
Tribe is working to protect the salmon and its way of life, and
is a way to teach that responsibility to the youth of the community.
"We genuinely care about this, and about our children's future,"