An Overview by Jessica LeClaire and Sydney Micek
the course of 5 days, we were exposed to an
of information regarding sustainability in
have always been an important species to the Native American Tribes in
In 1864, a treaty was made allowing the Klamath Tribes to reserve their water rights in exchange for 20 million acres of land (Breitler). According to Allen Foreman, forty years later the government invited farmers to the basin and failed to tell them about the tribe’s water rights (Breitler). As the farmers began using the land and water, the Natives were still depending on those resources as well. There became too many people using too little resources.
A picture of a Short Nosed Sucker Fish
In 1988, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put both the Shortnose and Lost River Suckerfish on the list of endangered species (US Fed News). Once placed on the endangered species list, the suckerfish became the enemy and known as bottom-feeding worthless fish to farmers, and other non-Natives. “Under the ESA, once a species has been federally listed as endangered, its alleged needs must come before the needs, rights and property of individual Americans, no matter what the cost; in this case, the allegedly threatened fish takes precedence over families,” (Wright).
There was a drought in 2001 that caused water levels to be low and
a court decision was made to shut off the irrigation water. Many
farmers in the Klamath area are almost totally dependent on irrigation.
Once the court’s decision to stop irrigation was announced, many of the
farmers launched protests (NASA). As more was being done to protect
the fish, the community became outraged and felt that they, the
agricultural community were becoming endangered.
The community tried to reduce the value of the fish so that it no longer made sense to protect them.
“The Klamath drought is a true crisis, and perhaps a catalyst for a serious reexamination of the Endangered
Species Act. Put a picture of that little farm girl with the plaintive sign, ‘We need water’ up against a shot of a
slimy sucker fish, and for many people it's not even a close call,” (The Klamath Dust Bowl). Protesting of the
fish was seen on signs within the agricultural communities main protest event, which was held in the form of a bucket brigade.
A bucket brigade as defined as “a method for transporting items where items are passed from one stationary person to the next; more specifically, it refers to a method of firefighting before the advent of hand pumped fire engines, whereby firefighters would pass buckets to each other to extinguish a blaze,” (Wikipedia). However, this bucket brigade was symbolic in nature and put into place purposely to make a statement to the federal government. “In a symbolic gesture of defiance to the federal ban on irrigation, farmers and their sympathizers formed a mile-long human chain and transported water, person-to-person, from Lake Ewauna at the city's Veterans Park to the main canal of the irrigation system,” (Foster). The bucket brigade was held on May 7, 2001 and was an all day event with thousands of people present. Included in the crowd was Senator Gordon Smith. There were public speakers beforehand, telling the stories of the farmers and the hardships in the community. At noon the bucket brigade began. “There were 51 four-gallon buckets, each bearing a bright red, white or blue balloon – one for every state in the Union and the District of Columbia,” (Foster). There were people on the sidelines that watched and people that participated. “The crowd was jubilant, waving American flags and hoisting placards that expressed the protesters' opinions about a government that denies irrigation water to farmers in the name of saving fish” (Foster).
Over 1,400 farming families in the Klamath area were impacted by the water shut off.
Many lost their property through bankruptcy, some lost their livelihoods and many small
farmers had to give up agriculture, sell their farm and move away.
“On July 24 the Department of the Interior approved the release of some irrigation water from
fields growing winter feed for livestock, but some other crops were unsalvageable, and water didn’t
reach every farmer who needed it,” (NASA). During all this time, private organizations donated
money and the community pulled together as much as it could to help out their fellow farmers.
August 21, 2001 marked another symbolic day for the agricultural community where a parade took place.
“The main attraction
in the parade
was the arrival of a giant 12-foot bucket that had been made in
This giant bucket is symbolic to the farmers to let them know that even though they are going through a rough time, the community is backing them.