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Peeshkêesh Yáv Umúsaheesh: ‘The River Will Look Good”

Píkyav on the Mid-Klamath River

Our team addresses the challenge of convening Karuk-centric science and governance mechanisms to restore eco-cultural integrity to a crucial, yet degraded section of the mid-Klamath River. With an eye to the 2022 removal of four hydroelectric dams upstream, the Karuk Tribe considers this research both critical and timely. Klamath River communities face an urgent need to innovate governance so that it centers land-based communities’ livelihoods and understandings of environmental processes, politics, and histories. Consultation and community planning have only marginally integrated community perspectives into large-scale governance. These processes lack the adaptable tools necessary to address the complex ecological realities of mine remediation, fire suppression and dam removal. 

Our project addresses this urgent need by piloting a river restoration process that centers tribal sovereignty by spanning scales – from the river reach to basin – using a river model of justice. In this model, stories and spatial data on a river’s movement through time diffract, prompting our collective consideration of what justice means for specific peoples in relation with species, lands, and river processes. The Karuk title of our project translates as “the river will look good”; deeper than its English reading, “looking good” goes far below the surface to include function, connection, and ceremonial renewal. In an intergenerational, field-based River School, we work with Karuk youth and cultural practitioners to bring together historical maps, stories, and spatial data on Karuk uses of floodplain ecosystems. Working iteratively with Karuk Department of Natural Resources collaborators, we propose to develop models and plans for floodplain restoration at Tishániik. Future work building from this pilot will transfer plans and a Karuk-centric restoration practice to a multi-agency river governance group, and evaluate science and governance innovations that result; an NSF proposal to support this future work is pending.

Research Team:
Principal Investigator: Cleo Wölfle Hazard, Assistant Professor of Equity and Environmental Justice, UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs 
Co-Principal Investigator: July Hazard, Lecturer, UW Comparative History of Ideas and UW Program on the Environment
Shawn Bourque, Environmental Higher Education and Research Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources
Karuk Tribe staff, including: Heather Rickard, Environmental, K-12 Education Coordinator; Aja Conrad, Environmental Workforce Development & Internships Coordinator; Bari Talley, Sípnuuk Division Coordinator
Kimberly Yazzie, Diné/Navajo, PhD Student, UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences