The audio above was put together as a sample of a series that The Spiritual Edge will be producing on the Winnemem Wintu in 2018-2019.
In 2016, the Winnemem Wintu tribe began a campaign to bring back their salmon. For thousands of years, the Winnemem had lived closely with the winter Chinook salmon of the McCloud River. Construction of the Shasta Dam in the 1940s blocked migration of the salmon, who had swum to and from the river, which is located upstream, effectively wiping out this population.
The campaign began as an outgrowth of a War Dance held in 2004 on top of Shasta Dam.
In a gutsy move, the tribe declared war on the federal government to protest a proposed increase of the dam’s height that would have wiped out many of their sacred sites. What surprised everyone was what came next: a note from a New Zealand professor who had seen a New York Times article. “We have your salmon,” he wrote. Do you want them back?”
Unknown to the Winnemem, salmon had survived in New Zealand after being sent around the world from a hatchery located on the McCloud River. The Winnemem went to New Zealand to meet the salmon and developed a plan to bring them back. They have struggled to convince federal officials of the feasibility of their plan.
Photography is by Spiritual Edge contributor Tom Levy.