[env-trinity] Sac. Bee: Gov. Newsom needs to give more than lip service to California native tribes

Regina Chichizola klamathtrinityriver at gmail.com
Wed Nov 20 14:05:39 PST 2019

Gov. Newsom needs to give more than lip service to at-risk California
native tribes

NOVEMBER 18, 2019 12:01 AM


Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring October 14,
2019 “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” in California. In this proclamation, he
acknowledged that native people were stewards of the land before the
conquest of California.

I thank the governor for the proclamation. However, last month -- on
California Native American Day -- the governor also vetoed legislation,
Senate Bill 1, that could have helped the state protect our salmon from
Trump’s environmental rollbacks. This is unacceptable.

We need more than lip service from the governor. We need action.

In October, President Donald Trump’s administration released a new review
of the Central Valley Water Project. This fisheries review replaces an earlier
one <https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/environment/article234220102.html> which
concluded that Trump’s Water Plan (to maximize water deliveries for Central
Valley agriculture) jeopardizes every Endangered Species Act-listed fish
species in the Delta, San Joaquin and Sacramento River systems. In a truly
Orwellian fashion, the new review claims fish do not need water.

For many of California’s tribes, water and salmon are life
The Trump plan would harm the state’s drinking water supply and salmon. It
negatively impacts the Sacramento, McCloud, San Joaquin, Yuba, American and
Feather rivers by increasing water deliveries to agriculture
23 to 39 percent. This means reductions to the state water project, which
serves people.

It also impacts the Klamath River
Trinity River diversions.

The governor should honor Native people by acting to save our salmon.

California needs to change course on water. Even without the new water
operations, California has been facing a crisis. Nearly half of our fish
are in danger of going extinct. If something does not change, the Central
Valley’s water will be unusable due to pollution and diversions. This year,
the Klamath salmon run did not show up. These salmon are a major food
source for the state’s three largest tribes, which live in rural areas and
face food insecurity.

The fact is that our once-abundant salmon have been devastated by dams and
diversions. Salmon runs that once numbered in the millions, nourished
Native peoples and fed the state’s economy now return each year in the
hundreds or less. We are on the brink of losing the salmon.

This loss would have widespread health, economic and cultural impacts.
Already some of California’s native communities have suicide rates
are 12 times the national average, and diabetes and heart disease rates
that are over 3 times the average. Studies have linked these health issues
to the loss of salmon

No statistics can express what losing the salmon has done to our culture
and well-being as communities. Unlike many other salmon states, very few of
California’s tribes have established rights to a harvestable surplus of
salmon and a land base, and no California tribes are actually able to catch
enough salmon to feed their families.

Many tribes do not even have clean water due to policies that favor
irrigators and polluters. In fact, many experts have called the sudden loss
of salmon to California Native communities cultural genocide
Despite this fact, we are left out of decisions that impact us and our
water and fishing rights are not respected.

It is hypocritical that the state of California and cities like San
Francisco to honor Native people while fighting us on needed salmon

We can do better, and there are examples. This year Attorney General
Becerra litigated against Westlands Water District’s ability to raise the
Shasta dam because it violated state law by flooding
wild and scenic river. The dam raise would also flood Winnemem Wintu sacred

Last month, Eureka, California returned a sacred site
was taken after a massacre to the Wiyot People. Last year, the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to support a flow
restoration decision to support salmon. Mayor London Breed vetoed it.

We need more than lip service to California’s tribal peoples. We need to
stand up to corporations, including agribusiness, to protect our water and
declining salmon populations.

Gov. Newsom campaigned on fighting the Trump administration’s environmental
rollbacks. We need him to follow through.

His veto of SB 1 was disappointing, but he has an opportunity to redeem
himself now by litigating against this latest assault on California’s
environment and by supporting tribes’ actions to protect water and regain

Words, without action, do not constitute an apology. This is a moment for
concrete truth and action to protect our salmon and all that is sacred.
*Morning Star Gali is the Tribal Water Organizer for Save California Salmon
and a member of the Pit River Tribe.*
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