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Tribes Urge U.S., Canada To Update Columbia River Treaty

Don Ryan
AP Photo
FILE - In this March 7, 2012, file photo, the Columbia River flows past the Vista House on Crown Point at right near Corbett, Oregon.

The U.S. and Canada are looking at renegotiating the Columbia River treaty, which has been in effect since 1964.

The treaty put into place a mechanism for the two countries to reduce flooding and increase electrical power generation. But it did not address the status of salmon and steelhead that have been decimated by the dams on the giant waterway. 

Native-American tribes say the negotiations need to consider fish and climate change. They're holding a prayer vigil all along the river in an effort to make that happen. 

“I pray everyday, not just for the my family and river, but for all people,” said Matt Winn, the chairman of the Upper Columbia United Tribes. “I think it’s kind of a holistic approach, and part of the prayer vigil is for the salmon since we really haven’t had them since before 1939.”

The Prayer vigil is not just for Native Americans. Katie Evans with the Sierra Club says churches from many denominations have been invited to take part. 

“Part of this is just getting folks out to organize, so we can be a visible force and join or forces together, so we can be visible to our elected officials — those can actually affect the law,” Evans said.

The event began earlier in the month in Astoria, Oregon, and is being held all along the along the Columbia River, with several tribes participating. The final event will be held on Aug. 16 in British Columbia.