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Health fears for tribes deprived of salmon diet
BEN GRIFFITHS, Business Staff

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 salmon stocks.

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 suing its
US unit PacifiCorp for 5.3m, claiming the dams it operates block 350 miles of historic salmon-spawning grounds.

Now a
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 economy."

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 person.

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 travelled to
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 life."

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 solution.

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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