Friday, August 6, 2010

The Ghosts of Salmon

As a new resident to the state of Oregon, a frequent observation that strikes me as remarkable is the connection between Oregonians and fish. The people of Oregon have a relationship with fish that mid-westerners (like myself) do not. It is as though the essence of being an Oregonian is essence of salmon. I decided to do some research and find out why. What I uncovered is a sad story (likely familiar to any Oregonian) about the abundance, relatively rapid depletion, and initiation of a slow recovery of one of Oregon’s most treasured resources.

It makes me wonder . . . Was it only the near loss of this treasured resource that created this connection to the salmon? Do modern people need to be within emanate risk of losing something to be willing to work together to save it? Can’t we learn from the example of the Native Americans and trade our lust for excess and profit, for the luxuries of solitude and sustenance? Why can’t we understand that money is just paper, economic wealth is imaginary, while water, air, soil, animals, and plants are the only things that truly sustain life? Can’t we learn from our mistakes and work together to save our natural resources before they are threatened? Or worse yet, before we are gathering together to mourn what’s been lost?

Organizations like HCPC have not lost sight of what is truly essential, and more importantly, have not given up hope. On a daily basis, they fight not only the battle to protect the resources we have, but also the battle to restore what’s already been lost. I feel honored to have spent the summer at HCPC, working with these people who do not do it for personal gain, or wealth, but simply because they know in their hearts it is what’s right.

“But look at the falls now and tell me what you see.

Look at the falls now if you can see beyond all the concrete the white man has built there.

Look at all of this and tell me that concrete ever equals love, Coyote.

These white men don't always love their own mothers, so how could they love this river which gave birth to a thousand lifetimes of salmon?

How could they love these falls which have fallen further, which sit dry and quiet as a graveyard now.

These falls are that place where ghosts of salmon jump, where ghosts of women mourn their children who will never find their way back home.

Where I stand now and search for any kind of love, where I sing softly under my breath, alone and angry.”

-- Sherman Alexie, from The Place Where Ghosts of Salmon Jump

Story by Meghan Dutton, HCPC summer intern

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