The 19th annual Salmon Run was a huge success with over 200 people of all ages participating throughout the Klamath Basin June 3-6. The purpose of this Indigenous-led spiritual run was to inspire unity across the Klamath Basin. It was originally started by four women from Hoopa High School in 2003 – the year after the disastrous Klamath River fish kill of 2002 that left over 60,000 adult salmon dead before they could spawn
Early on Thursday June 3rd, Yurok families started the Salmon Run at Wehl-kwew, the lips of the Klamath River, and continued on dirt backroads to the village of Wau-tek. Runners relayed a baton fashioned into the shape of a salmon over 90 miles on Friday before joining Karuk families and other supporters Friday afternoon at Panamnik (Orleans, California). Friday afternoon the baton was relayed upriver to Athithufvuunupma (Happy Camp, California).
The next day, runners arrived at Iron Gate Dam around 11am and joined up with a caravan of participants from the Klamath Tribes. The run’s collective leaders from across the Basin offered song and prayers in front of Iron Gate Dam and celebrated its upcoming removal and the return of balance to this struggling river system. A powerful connection was made as upriver people brought new energy to the run and their youth blasted through the rough back roads from Iron Gate Dam to JC Boyle reservoir where runners camped for the night.
Sunday morning everyone circled up at a campground and prepared to run through the Upper Basin’s agricultural lands, then boated across Upper Klamath Lake to complete the run upstream of Chiloquin at the Wood River’s headwaters – over 300 miles from where they started. The Klamath Tribes’ run organizers prepared the group for the day and encouraged people to stay positive in the face of adversity along the way.
A solid caravan of supporters protected the runners on the busy roadways of Klamath Falls. The run went off without a hitch and successfully arrived at the Wood River around 7:30pm. As the sun set on the glistening headwaters it was clear that the youth who had given their all to this run would actually see the return of salmon and the revitalization of c’waam within their lifetime.
According to Yurok Tribal member Annelia Hillman who helped organize the event. “The salmon run this year was especially powerful because it brought indigenous communities together to focus on our spiritual connection to the water, land and people. It served as a reminder that we as indigenous people are part of these ecosystems, and that we carry a responsibility to protect and care for this watershed as it does for us, as well as the importance to take care of each other. With the continuing battle for water rights, and to stop the diversion of our watershed, it is so important that indigenous people unite in solidarity se we can be a stronger force in this water war.”