A sign at Shasta Dam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Due to COVID-19 precautions, Run4Salmon, a 300-mile trek led by Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and the Run4Salmon community to restore salmon runs, protect waters and protect Indigenous lifeways has gone virtual. 

The Sacramento River winter-run Chinook Salmon have been unable to return to their home in the Winnemem Wintu’s ancestral watershed since Shasta Dam was built 75 years ago. In California, climate change, dam projects and large agricultural irrigation projects have pushed the salmon to the verge of extinction

Speaking on the podcast “Stay Human” on July 28, members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe discussed their history including how the loss of salmon is parallel to the loss of their people. Efforts to reintroduce the salmon (from where a fish hatchery shipped them decades ago) is crucial to the recovery of both. Currently, a genetically matched group from New Zealand is being tested at UC Davis, and to date their Salmon Restoration Plan fundraiser has raised $116,000 of their $170,000 goal. 

The Run4Salmon “prayerful journey” follows the historical 300-mile-long salmon run. In years past, most participants walked, ran, biked or traveled by boat, singing, dancing and praying from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Winnemem (McCloud River).

run4salmonEvent poster via Run4Salmon. However, this year’s event was organized around COVID-19 concerns.

“As COVID-19 presents new challenges in our daily lives and social distancing measures remain in place, we want to inform you that our Run4Salmon prayer will also abide by the state of California’s safety measures recommended to the general public in attempts to decrease the spread of the virus,” organizers said in a statement.

Virtual events began July 17 and have included online film screenings, discussions, live prayer sessions in Machoopda territory along the Sacramento River, and access to curriculum is provided for students, parents and educators in the form of mini online lessons. The final events are as follows:

  • On July 29 and 30, both the “Dancing Salmon Home” documentary film and “Standing on Sacred Ground” documentary film will be available to watch online for free and live on the Run4Salmon Facebook page.
  • On July 31 from 7-9 p.m. PST the livestream panel discussion with Chief Caleen Sisk and others includes a report on the efforts to bring salmon stocks from New Zealand, and the federal push to raise Shasta Dam.
  • The completion prayers by the water in Ohlone territory will be livestreamed on their Facebook page on Aug. 1 and 2. 

Virtual prayer participants can post their waterways prayers and photos using #Run4SalmonWater.

About The Author
Nanette Kelley
Author: Nanette Kelley
Nanette Kelley (Osage Nation/Cherokee Nation) is a contributing writer to Native News Online. She covers tribes throughout California. She can be reached at [email protected]