The Yurok Tribe and the Klamath River Featured in New California Academy of Sciences Exhibit
Press release from the Yurok Tribe:
The Yurok Tribe’s award-winning stewardship of the Klamath River is featured in a new California Academy of Sciences exhibit called Giants of Land and Sea.
Giants of Land and Sea is set to premiere on Friday, June 15 at the San Francisco museum. On June 12, Yurok Tribal Council Representative Joe James and Yurok Office of Self Governance Director Javier Kinney will participate in several opening events at the museum.
“It is an honor to participate in this amazing project. I would like to thank the California Academy of Sciences for sharing our story with the world,” said Councilmember James, who represents the Tribe’s East District. “As Yurok people, we have an obligation to be strong stewards of the Klamath River, the lifeline of our tribe. This exhibit will help us raise awareness about what is being done to address the struggling salmon runs on our river.”
Giants of Land and Sea is a celebration of Northern California’s natural history and is largely comprised of interactive displays centered on “the epicness of the state’s iconic landscape—a place of constant change where people and climate are shaping the future.”
“Since time immemorial, the Yurok people have been the protectors of the Klamath River and that legacy continues to this day,” Councilmember James said. “When settlers arrived on our shores they were astonished by the natural beauty. They didn’t know that what they were witnessing was shaped by human hands, Yurok hands, and was the result of our cumulative Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Today, we are working very hard to restore the Klamath River and the forests that surround it.”
The Yurok Tribe’s portion of the California Academy of Sciences exhibit, titled Yurok Voices, is comprised of a series of three videos, in which Yurok political leaders and fisheries biologists detail the Tribe’s enduring effort to revitalize the Klamath’s once substantial salmon runs. The river’s late summer/early fall run of Chinook salmon, presently the most populous stock, has reached record-low levels in the past three years. In 2016 and 2017, fewer fish returned to the river than any other time in modern history. Driving the downturn are four fish ladder-less dams, which create poor water quality conditions and block access to hundreds of miles of fish habitat. However, there is a genuine cause for optimism about the future of the Klamath salmon.
In 2021, those four dams are slated for removal in what will be the largest watershed restoration project in US history. For nearly two decades, the Yurok Tribe and neighboring tribes have led a campaign to bring the dams down and reopen 250 miles of historic salmon spawning habitat. This extraordinary ecological success story is highlighted in one of the videos included in the exhibit.
“We believe the health of our environment and the health of our river is a direct reflection of the health of our people,” explained Louisa McCovey, the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program Director, in an exhibit film clip called Salmon Sanctuary. “We are connected to this place. We care about it and we’ll do anything to protect it.”
Earlier this year, the Yurok Tribe, with assistance from the Western Rivers Conservancy, reacquired a large tract of land in the Blue Creek watershed, one of the Klamath’s most important tributaries. The creek, which better resembles a river, contains prime spawning and rearing grounds for salmon steelhead trout and other fish species. The Tribe is working toward turning Blue Creek — where there is a history of industrial logging — into a salmon stronghold and returning its forests back into an old-growth, biodiverse ecosystem. This project is a primary theme in another Giants of Land and Sea video.
“The Yurok Tribe encourages everyone to visit the California Academy of Sciences to take advantage of the opportunity to deeply immerse in Northern California’s rich, natural heritage,” concluded Councilmember James.