Save the Date: Saturday October 24 at the University of Portland
Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty
One month after Pope Francis speaks to Congress, we invite you to join us at the University of Portland’s Buckley Center Auditorium on Saturday, October 24 from 8 am – 4 pm, for a discussion about ethics and the future of the Columbia River. This event is free and open to the public, and lunch will be provided.
Modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” public meetings, “One River, Ethics Matter” is a conference series exploring the moral dimensions of the impacts of the dam-building era with a focus on tribes, First Nations and the river itself. Gonzaga University hosted the first conference from which issued the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty signed by religious and indigenous leaders and many others. Please join us for the second of these conferences with a focus on flood-risk management, climate change, justice, and stewardship. We’ll explore measures to correct historic injustice — including less environmentally damaging options to protect Portland from floods and restoring salmon to ancestral spawning grounds. Support is growing to expand the treaty’s original purposes (flood risk management and hydropower) by adding a third purpose: “ecosystem function” to restore health to the Columbia River, including the return of salmon to ancestral spawning waters.
The Portland conference will open with Bishop William Skylstad, the force behind the Columbia River Pastoral Letter, and Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce Tribe and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission) speaking on indigenous people, salmon, and the river. Other speakers will include Virgil Seymour who will describe the fate of the Sinixt Nation located in the Upper Columbia and declared “extinct” by Canada in 1956 during Treaty negotiations with the United States. Crystal Spicer will describe the valiant effort by her father to save their family home and farm while 2,300 people were forced by the B.C. government to relocated. The conference will conclude with a discussion of the current opportunities to modernize the Columbia River Treaty that governs management of the River, while underscoring the need to revisit flood risk management.
International water conflicts are a growing global risk in the face of climate change. “One River, Ethics Matter” intends to use the Columbia River Pastoral Letter and the tools used by hospital ethics committees to help establish a water ethic as foundational for international decisions on water.
RSVP contact: Belgin Inan firstname.lastname@example.org 503.943.8342
RSVP deadline: October 16
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History of the Creation of the Columbia River Treaty
Vanport, Oregon – Photo from Blackpast.org
The 1948 flooding of the city of Vanport, outside of Portland, helped launch the creation of the Columbia River Treaty. To provide housing for Kaiser shipyard workers and their families, the Columbia River was diked and public housing built on the floodplain in 1942. Adjacent to Portland near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Vanport was at one point Oregon’s second largest city. In 1948 during a flood event, the dikes gave way. The flooding of Vanport was the Hurricane Katrina story of its day. Fifteen people died, and the city was destroyed.
Celilo Falls – Indians fishing at the falls in the 1950s. From Northwest Power and Conservation Council website, photo from Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
But the story did not end there. Vanport was used to justify the need for more flood protection – resulting in the damming and permanent flooding of river valleys in interior British Columbia and Montana – the “Treaty dams.” These dams came at the end of the dam-building era in the Columbia that transformed the River into a machine with devastating consequences for salmon, tribes and First Nations, and the river itself. Today the great salmon gathering places of Celilo Falls and Kettle Falls are underwater, flooded by reservoirs.
Kettle Falls was legendary for salmon gathering place for tribes since time immemorial — now flooded by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee dam. (Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture photo)
Dam-building, interior British Columbia: burning homes in Renata B.C.. Dams permanently flooded river valleys of the Upper Columbia to provide flood protection for Portland.
Kettle Falls, Ceremony of Tears. Colville Tribal women in ceremonial dress, gathered for the Ceremony of Tears. In June 1940, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people mourned the drowning of Kettle Falls at a “Ceremony of Tears” organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes and attended by representatives of the Yakama, Spokane, Nez Perce, Salish, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Coeur d’Alene, Tulalip, Pend Oreille, and other tribes. Kettle Falls slipped beneath the rising waters of Lake Roosevelt on July 5, 1941. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)
Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors
McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics * Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission * Columbia Basin Revitalization Coalition * Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland * Okanagan Nation Alliance * Upper Columbia United Tribes * Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon * Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation * Pacific Rivers Council * WaterWatch of Oregon * Citizens for a Clean Columbia * Columbia Riverkeeper * Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society * Sweo Chair in Engineering * Center for Environmental Law & Policy * The Roskelley Family * Molter Chair in Science * Save Our wild Salmon * Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture * Columbia Institute for Water Policy * Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club * Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter * ATRIA * Francis Maltby * Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club * Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Conference Links –
Declaration on Ethics & modernizing the Treaty