Salmon are Sacred: Help the Winnemem Wintu Bring Back Salmon to McCloud River

Salmon are Sacred: Help the Winnemem Wintu Bring Back Salmon to McCloud River

Photo via GoFundMe

Photo via GoFundMe

For those who have no voice, we must use ours to protect them; to defend them from our own selfish tendencies.

The Bay area’s a bastion for the many natural splendors afforded by Northern California living. There are, truly, few places in the world where urban sprawls so seamlessly disappear into Mother Nature’s lush, rich, green backdrops; rivers, creeks, beaches canvass the landscapes from which we see out our twelve-story up offices.

Granted though, you’re not likely to see the McCloud River from even the highest of downtown offices—because it’s some 300-miles north of the Presidio.

However, let that not take away from the enigmatic, enchanting allure the river has on the limestone landscapes in which the McCloud River was carved from. As if Father Time, himself, excavated the 77-mile stretch of freshwater from a single block of earth, pandering fastidious amounts of time on its every idiosyncratic detail. One might describe the McCloud Rivershed as "breathtaking" or "visually sublime"—but that would imply written language could convey the area’s beguiling features with typed characters.

For that, there is no text nor script in existence.

Furthermore, some believe that the very river’s salmon birthed vocabulary itself.

Led by Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk, the Winnemem Wintu people still practice their tribal ceremonies and traditions in their ancestral homelands shouldering the McCloud River watershed. In their very genesis story, it was the salmon who gave us our voices. And, in return for the salmon’s boundless generosity to the human race, it was agreed upon that they, the Winnem Wintu, would speak for them till the end of time.

The livelihoods of both the Winnemem and their endemic salmon schools are inexplicably intertwined, believed to be forever dependent on the other’s well-being. 

Now that spiritual partnership is teetering on the brink of disaster.

Because of the construction of the Shasta Dam in 1945, the health of the McCloud river has suffered greatly.. The Winnemem Wintu, too, have seen their fair share of untimely catastrophes in part due to the dam’s construction; sheltering structures and otherwise lush, fertile lands have been literally swept away in floods from years’ past.

The salmon suffered an even darker demise—they were completely wiped out.

But hope is not lost just yet. In 2004, it came to the attention of the Winnemem WIntu that a federal fish hatchery on the McCloud River sent salmon eggs to New Zealand, where they later established in rivers throughout the South Island.

Thirteen-years later...and that introduced population is still thriving.

Now, with furrowed brows and steady hands, the Winnemem Wintu hope to re-introduce the Kiwi salmon back to their original spawning grounds within the McCloud river. And, alas, holding-up their end of the bargain to the area's salmon population.

// To help fund the needed man-power and supplies in order to bring the salmon back home, visit the NorCal tribe's GoFundMe page. All donations will go directly toward facilitating the McCloud River salmon's long overdue homecoming.


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