Learning Through Listening:
American Issues in Rural Oregon
Sucker Fish (C'uaam)
The purpose of the course is
learning through listening just
as the name suggests. Over our five day visit to Chiloquin and Klamath Falls Oregon,
we met several stakeholders and spent several hours each day listening
concerns regarding water rights and other rural concerns.
The basic premise for the controversy in Klamath Falls is
over the scarcity of water.
After a few years of drought in the region, the water level in the
dropped to a point that a certain type of fish known to the Native
C’uaam, or commonly known as sucker fish, was put on the endangered
species list. As a result, in 2001
the Federal government shut off the water to the Klamath Basin,
which left farmers without enough water to irrigate their crops.
Our purpose for researching this issue
was not to come up
with a solution to this problem, but rather try to gain new
would be presumptuous to think that twenty college students could spend
than a week observing the problems surrounding the Klamath Basin
and declare a solution to this complex issue.
For me, the most interesting part
of the trip was the
importance of the cultural and religious practices of the Klamath
thousands of years, long before white settlers migrated into the basin,
indigenous people depended on the C’uaam as a main staple in their
In addition, the fish were integral in the development of the native
Fishing was performed primarily
by the men, although in some
instances women also took part in it. There were a variety of ways that
tribes caught fish, some would use nets or canoes, but during the
the fish in the river would be so numerous that the men could fish of
with harpoons and spear them with ease.
At the beginning of spring, the
tribal leaders would take
the first two C’uaam that they caught to be used in a ceremony that
tribute to the creator. The first fish would be cremated as an offering
creator, and the second would be released back in the water to pay
There are many people in the Klamath
and Chiloquin community
that has been affected by the on going water rights issue. However, it
important that the preservation of the tribes and their way of life be
It is my hope that through sustainable farming practices and the
for the various stakeholders to listen to each other that a reasonable
compromise can be met.
City of Klamath
U.S. Fish &
of Indian Affairs