(Excerpt from my master’s thesis titled “Remembering Our Future: The Search For The Salmon ! of Wisdom”, Naropa University – May 2006)
!Water. Myfavoriteplacetobe. “She’sinhernaturalhabitat”,mymomwouldsayaboutme
!The Stanislaus River is the first river I fell in love with. When I was a kid, my family would go rafting down the Stanislaus River on overnight rafting/camping trips, along with my mom’s brother Tom and his family, the McCarthy clan. Those were some of our two families most memorable times, with many enchanting stories shared.
!Atafamilyreunionrecently,myUncleTominsistedweshareouroldstories. “Rememberour rafting trips down the Stanislaus River before they dammed it? Remember the cliffs we dove off of into the warm water pools at Rose Creek? Remember how young Mikey was the first to jump off the cliff? Remember Widow Maker rapids? Remember when Mark Dubois chained himself to the rock to protest the building of the New Melones dam? Those were such amazing times!
!Everyone then began recalling and retelling their stories which at one point in time had been part of our family connectivity, our own river that united our families. But, like a lot of American families, we had built many dams in our own family river system, and the stories stopped flowing. That day at our family reunion, we removed some of the dams, and stories flowed freely. Together we had painted a picture of the river, our river, and our hearts were opening, family restoration was taking place. When we had finished talking story about the Stanislaus, I said “This is the work that I want to do. I want to remember the spirit of the river.”
!Today the Stanislaus River is blocked thirteen times by dams on its way from the Sonora Pass in the Sierras to the San Francisco Bay. After a ten-year battle, the last long whitewater stretch was dammed with the New Melones Dam, which was built to supply the agricultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley by the Army Corps of Engineers, and then eventually taken over by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
!My experiences and memories of the Stanislaus River, and my own personal grief as well as my family’s grief when they dammed the river, has had a profound effect on my wanting to become an environmentalist. It was the actual experience with the river that made a difference. The connectivity dug deep into the core of my soul.