THE native Americans waging a war against
ScottishPower over ancient fishing rights have
presented academic research which, they claim, links
deteriorating health among tribesmen to declining
Members of the Karuk tribe
were in the deputation which travelled to
Edinburgh last year to lobby ScottishPower for the
removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
Four tribes protested at
the Glasgow-based group's annual meeting and are
US unit PacifiCorp for £5.3m, claiming the dams it
operates block 350 miles of historic salmon-spawning
University of California study has claimed the
native Americans have been forced to adopt unhealthy
high-starch diets because they cannot catch salmon
from the river which runs through northern
California and southern Oregon.
Dr Kari Norgaard, author
of the study, said: "Because they have been denied
access to salmon, the incidence of diabetes and
heart disease among tribal members has sky-rocketed.
Fewer fish in the river has meant fewer salmon for
the tribe to harvest, denying it both a traditional
subsistence food source and a basis for a modern
Salmon once represented a
staple of the Karuk diet, with the average tribesman
consuming 450lb of salmon a year before Europeans
arrived with the goldrush of the 1850s. Today,
salmon consumption is less than 5lb a year for each
Ron Reed, a Karuk
fisherman, said: "The lack of good food is killing
our people. Instead of having healthy food to eat,
we are relegated to eating commodity foods. That's
our subsidy – unhealthy high-starch foods. Because
of our poverty, we're forced to eat what the
government gives us."
Tribal leaders, including
vice-chair Leaf Hillman, have promised to bring the
salmon home by removing the Klamath dams so that
salmon reach their spawning grounds.
Mr Hillman said: "When we
Scotland last summer, we were given an assurance
from ScottishPower's management that they would work
with us to find a solution to our problems. We are
calling on ScottishPower, once again, to live up to
that assurance and help us bring the salmon home. If
they do not, they are consigning our tribal health,
wealth and culture to the dustbin."
The study also highlighted
the despair and hopelessness experienced by the
tribe members due to the loss of control over how
the river and its fisheries are managed.
Mr Hillman added:
"Depression is a major problem here, from our young
people to our elders. It has to do with realising
that our resources and our ability to carry on our
traditions are controlled by people outside the
area, often in other countries – people who don't
really know or care about what happens to our way of
The tribes have threatened
to return to
Scotland "year-after-year" to press their case.
Licences for the project, which includes five dams,
are due to expire in 2006 and PacifiCorp has applied
for a renewal.
Last July, Ian Russell,
ScottishPower's chief executive, gave the tribes a
"personal commitment" that he would find the right
A ScottishPower spokes-man said: "This is one of
many issues being considered by the federal
regulators as part of the complex relicensing
process. Given the varied and fundamental changes to
the lifestyle of the Klamath tribes in the last 70
years, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of one
single factor in isolation."
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