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Reoccurring Fish Kill Along Klamath River: Yurok Youth Seek Answers

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Fish Kill 2014? Yurok Youth Seek Answers

The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted every year to Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

Project submitted by: Mo Hollis (Seventh Generation Fund), Rachel Provolt (Yurok Tribe Social Services), and Kapoon Tripp (Yurok Tribe) in collaboration with10 Yurok Youth between the age of 12-16.

Project summary: The video is an example of supporting youth as leaders of change while telling stories/history from the Yurok community.

BHC site: Del Norte

After hearing about sightings of salmon beginning to die upriver on the Klamath, a group of Yurok Youth taking part in a digital storytelling workshop decided to document their community's response. They explored the history of the 2002 fish kill and sought out answers for preventing another disaster on their river. As we got together with the youth to discuss what kind of video they might want to work on they said they wanted to do something that was important to our people. So we decided to make this an opportunity to let our youth lead us. They discussed bringing awareness to the warm water in the rivers and the damage that it has caused and could possibly cause again this year. The Seventh Generation Fund Media Department led the digital storytelling workshop with the Yurok Social Services Youth Program.

The production of the video allowed our youth to tell us what they remember and also ask older members of our community what they remember about the 2002 fish kill and how it made them feel.

Our community members have individual stories of that devastating event but we had never collected those stories for our younger community members to hear so that they would have a real understanding of the devastation that it brought to us as individuals and as a community.


Creating this video helped our community to use media as a form of "lifting our voices." We were able to document the importance of this event and the sadness that we felt and the worry that it could happen again. We wanted to get it out for the public so that thousands could see and hopefully prevent it from happening again. In addition, this video helped bring about awareness of the shortage of water in our rivers and the devastation that low and warm waters can cause to a species.

Yurok elders at demonstration.
Yurok elders at demonstration.

The youth are our leaders and need to learn at a young age that they can make a difference. This video demonstrated that leadership and fight to get water released from the dams into our rivers to save the salmon and make our rivers healthy once again.
This video brought together our youth from both Humboldt and Del Norte County, and all the community members who agreed to participate and be interviewed and give there honest opinions and answers. This community worked together in hopes to stop another fish kill from happening.

Working on this video definitely was about healing from our huge loss in 2002. Participants talked about being both angry and sad. We also talked about what is happening now and what can we done today to prevent this devastation from happening again. By letting our emotions out about the past and discussing preventative measures to keep this from happening again definitely provided healing for our youth and our whole community.


This video has been seen by over 5,220 views on Youtube. It made all the local newspapers online and had (at last count) over 50 shares on Facebook. It has been shown on news from native California as well as Indian country today and we have been approached by FNX (a native media channel.)

We are continuing to collaborate within our Tribe, Tribal Department, with other Tribes, and with other local agencies to work together and help our community to be as healthy as we can. We want to support and promote healthy lifestyles, healthy waters, healthy families, sports, culture, and community involvement and community responsibility for all ages. We believe it is important to be an active member in society and play a positive role in helping keep our community well.

Yurok Youth who produced the video along with Thomas O'Rourk, Yurok Tribe Chairman
Yurok Youth who produced the video along with Thomas O'Rourk, Yurok Tribe Chairman

All photos are video stills from "Fish Kill 2014. Yurok Youth Seek Answers," except for "Yurok elders at demonstration" and the primary image. Photos by Patrick McCully courtesy of Creative Commons License.

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