Picture taken from the Auditorium of the Tribal Administration Building on March 26, 2007

Website created by Francisco J. Castillo and Javier Lara as part of the coursework for


Learning through Listening:  Native American Issues In Rural Oregon Communities


Ethnic Studies and Sociology Spring Break Course


March 25 to Mach 30, 2007


Course Introduction

This course was created for students to take a non-traditional action research approach to learning.  For students to experience issues related sustainable rural development first-hand.  By carefully listening and interacting with different rural community stakeholders that deals with these problems on a daily basis.  See course syllabus for further information.  The course goals are as follows:


“The purpose of this course was to bring together diverse community members together in order to learn about sustainable rural development in Oregon. Through listening, analysis and collaboration with different community stakeholders including: cattle ranchers, youth corrections officers, school officials, human health and service providers, chamber of commerce, high school students, seniors, extension services personnel, law enforcement officers, and tribal leaders, course participants will begin to develop a better understanding of the complex issues facing rural communities trying to achieve sustainable development. The course embodies a non‑traditional approach to learning that blurs the boundaries between teacher/ student/ community/ researchers. Stakeholders with vested interests in issues of sustainable development in the Chiloquin and Klamath communities will be invited to tell their stories to students who will later have the opportunity to reflect upon this information in a collective setting. Group processing of the information obtained through these intense listening experiences contribute to the students understanding of the issues, as presented from diverse social positions and perspectives. By the end of the week students will better understand the challenges inherent in achieving long term sustainable development in Oregon’s rural communities” (Syllabus course Pg. 1)


KLAMATH TRIBES’ water issue


History cannot be erased.  Every individual may have a different point of view, experience, or situation in life but all Native Americans share parts of the same history and struggle. We had the opportunity to speak with members (Steak Holders) of the Chiloquin Oregon area and hear their stories. Rather than trying to sum up the span of 200 years of history, we will direct you to a website where you can read the History of the Klamath Tribes and the struggles that they had overcome and that still overcoming in these days.  A number of writers participated in writing this commentary submitted by Allen Foremen, Chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

For many years water has been the main resource for Native Americans.  Most of the Native American stake holders mentioned how important the water is for them specially when referring to the fish and agriculture.  During the week that we spend in Chiloquin Oregon it was mentioned more than once that before the dams were build, people were able to walk across the river without getting their feet wet, what this meant was that there were lots and lots of fish that this rivers would produce (There was a point in time where the river produced a large amount of fish.).  The fish started to disappeared due to huge corporation (Pacific Corp) building dams along the Klamath water main streams.  This corporation, at the moment of constructing these dams, did not think about the concerns of other people in the community.   All what they were focusing was on their own economic benefit.  The building of these dams brought many problems, for example; it destroyed the Native American Traditions, culture, and the fish economy not only for this community, but from other regions as well.  The waters of the area were the third leading producer of fish before the construction of the dams.  Even tough there has been proposed to take down the dams, and resolved this problem.   There are also people who think the contrary; they think that the problems are not the dams, but the water quality.  (Klamathforestallience.org) See Water/Dam problem for more information.

Learning Experience

At the beginning of this class we did not know what to expect, uncertainty about having made the right decision to take the course, was still spinning in our head.   But, something in the back of our mind, deep inside, told us that, we had made the right move.   We knew that the goal was to learn about Native Americans in the Klamath community.  But, we never thought it would be that much, specially  in such a short time (five days).  After the first two interviews we were already excited and wanting to learn more about Native American history.  When we started to listening to Morrie Jimenez, we started to think that Culture and Traditions were the two main things that we were going to be learning about Native American in this course.  By the end of the first day, however, the steak holders had already told us some of the issues that we were going to be exposed.  It was intense when Morrie and Gordon started to tell us about the ordeals that were created by the encounter of two cultures.  It was stressful to witness by listening that even today, Native American, in this case the Klamath tribe members are still suffering by the last of their land, culture, and unique identity for the future generations. Later on, as we moved on interviewing different stakeholders, we felt on the oddest position because all the issues were going through our heads, but we were unable to give an opinion regarding the issues.  One of the past and present issues that we were exposed was the water issue.  The main water issue became so dedicated because non of the groups wanted to sacrificed a big percentage of their power.  The Klamath tribes need it enough water to keep their culture fish species alive.  The farmers and the livestock-farming need the water to develop a successful economy.  This issue was very delicate to the Klamath Tribes and the community because both groups are being try to solved the differences since the dams were built, the beginning of the 19th century.  Both groups have been in problems because lack of communication on both sides, lack of communication has brought different incidents such as the bucket brigade after the water shut off on August, 2001.  See more about Bucket Brigade. 

Now days both sides of the community have realized that they can’t be fighting their whole life for something they both need (Water).  Now, they are trying to get into agreements on what would be good for both communities.  we think that after all the water conflict has brought awareness to both sides, and has helped them by making them work together as one community.  Now both communities are trying to get along, like one of the stakeholder said, “We are now more aware of what we want and we are now working together to get what both communities need”.  Most of the stakeholder expressed a positive future,  because they are trying their best to get to an agreement, and they are now willing to work together.  It was also mention that, “Now the Tribes and community get together and discuss their issues, and that this is really good because years back they were not able to get together and work their difference, now they are both learning from each other”. 

Over all, the most important thing was that we were able to learn from all the stakeholders and their different perspectives regarding their issues.  To be exposed to real life issues was a strong stage in our life.  It was so strong, that right now we are still digesting this information.  But, experiences like this one are a must in our lives, because many of us are so tramped in our own insolated material world that we forget about the truly struggles that are happening on our back yards. Cuming back to OSU, we share our achievements with members that were interested, family, and friends by creating a power point presentation (see article).  Although this class was intensive, we were able to learn lots of information from rural communities and some of the issues that they are expose on an everyday basis.  This course is very educational and dynamic, we strongly recommend it! It truly frames a better understanding of the complex issues that rural communities are facing by trying to achieve sustainable development.