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In this LoCO Video Report we take you to Requa, where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean.
Dozens gathered there over the weekend to welcome around 50 teens and their mentors from the Klamath Basin and Patagonia, Chile, who were wrapping up a three-week journey on the Klamath River that started at Crater Lake.
A traditional Yurok song filled the air as a fleet of kayaks, canoes and rafts came from a distance. The river flowed with grace and the landscape was breathtaking. The crowd embraced the powerful moment and cheered with excitement when the watercraft hit shore.
It’s all part of Ríos to Rivers, a non-profit organization that aims to empower youth through exchange, experience and education. This trip they connected youth from the Klamath Basin — which includes members of the Klamath, Karuk, Hoopa and Yurok tribes — and Patagonia, Chile, who are seeking to understand their watersheds, the threats they face and how to protect them.
“This is really an opportunity for them to grow as spokespeople and be able to be more effective stewards and find their voice,” said Rios to Rivers founder and executive director Weston Boyles. “And I think that’s so critical because there’s so many environmental crisises that we face today, and the youth are the answer.”
Rios to Rivers teamed up these two regions because of their similar struggles of battling corporations that operate hydroelectric dams.
John-Luke Gensaw is a Requa native and media director for Ancestral Guard. He’s only 19 years old, and he, like many, has seen the dams impact on the river.
“So I thought it was a time to put down my boat and start fighting for the river because for generations it brought my people life and happiness,” he says. “And if that dies —traditionally we believe if that if the fish go, our traditions follow right after it, so I think it’s important in this generation seven that we fight for what we have.”
And the fight to un-dam the Klamath River has been long, complicated, and controversial. But after years of persistence, four hydroelectric dams are slated to be removed in 2020 — the largest dam removal in history.
Unfortunately, as one river moves toward liberation, many others around the world become the next target of new dam construction.
The Chilean participants say that five dams have been proposed along their country’s most pristine rivers. And although there’s been a massive resistance by the citizens, which has put things on hold, companies standby awaiting for the opportunity to move forward.
This experience has provided them insight. They not only learned about the dams and visited them, but about fisheries, water quality, water allocation, food security and the cultural traditions of Klamath Basin tribes.
“People need to be connected, we need to know the history of different towns,” said Chilean volunteer, Consuelo Endrade. “I think if we know the stories of other people in other territories than we can be able to share our goals of how we want to live and fight for it.”
The exchange was made possible through fundraising and support from Klamath Riverkeeper, the Warrior Institute out of Hoopa, Ancestral Guard, various tribes and many others. Chilean actress and activist Juanita Ringling even joined in the effort.
Then, in February 2018, the Klamath Basin youth will travel to Chile to explore the rivers of Patagonia, and learn about Chilean culture. Rios to Rivers Founder Weston Boyles and his colleagues are even making a film about these youths love for their rivers.
Watch the video for the full story!