KALW’s Spriritual Edge presents A Prayer for Salmon, the story of the Winnemem Wintu people and their clash with Northern California’s Shasta Dam. A Prayer for Salmon is a limited series of five one-hour episodes.
A Prayer for Salmon winds its way through spirituality, environmentalism, politics, and California’s violent history of colonization to tell the powerful story of the Winnemem Wintu people through exceptional research and intimate conversations with voices rarely heard on air.
Episode 1: A Protest at Shasta Dam
In a peaceful protest, the Winnemem Wintu call out the U.S. government for its refusal to acknowledge the destruction caused by Shasta Dam. The protest at the Shasta Dam Visitor Center reveals an ongoing reality. They are ignored and a security guard threatens to forcibly remove them.
Episode 2: It’s Illegal
We go to Shasta Dam and learn about the history behind its construction in the late 1930s and early 1940s. We hear from Chief Caleen Sisk about how a federal proposal to raise the dam another 18 1/2 feet opens old wounds for the Winnemem Wintu, further threatening their tenuous survival.
Episode 3: A Habitat Destroyed
The Winnemem Wintu and supporters start a two-week Run4Salmon prayer to call salmon back to the waters above Shasta Dam. The Run follows the salmon’s migration path from the ocean to the mountains. It starts in the Bay Area where the Winnemem Wintu and supporters encounter environmental devastation first set in motion 200 years ago.
Episode 4: Speaking for Salmon
At a sacred spring high up on Mt. Shasta, the Winnemem Wintu recount the beginnings of the world when salmon gave up their voices so that humans could speak. They now feel a special obligation to defend salmon in return for this gift. A biologist details Chinook salmon’s catastrophic decline since the arrival of Euro-American settlers to California and the Northwest.
Episode 5: The Return of Salmon
A War Dance held on top of Shasta Dam in 2004 brought about a surprising discovery: the Winnemem Wintu’s fish swam in rivers on the other side of the world. Determined to bring them home, they board a plane bound for Christchurch, New Zealand. With the help of the Maori people, they hold a ceremony on the Rikkaia River and sing to the salmon there. Once back in the US, Chief Caleen Sisk meets with every government agency she can to push the idea of bringing the New Zealand back to Winnemem Wintu homelands on the McCloud River.