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Second take: The water agreement
Giving a voice to the Shasta tribe
By LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 11/27/09
Submitted photo - Athena Bagwell, whoI is Shasta, is concerned that removing dams will have negative impacts.
DORRIS — It was 2002, and Athena Bagwell was living in Atlanta when she saw a TV news report on the massive dieoff of thousands of Klamath River salmon.
“I saw that on CNN and thought, ‘It’s time to go home,’ ” she said.
Home was Butte Valley, which she said was part of the ancestral home of Shasta Indians.
According to Bagwell, the Shasta Indian Nation’s vice chairwoman, the Shastas had the largest aboriginal land base of Northern California tribes, including what is now Siskiyou County, along with sections of Klamath, Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon. The main body occupied lands along the Klamath River from Keno to Happy Camp, Calif.
Bagwell, 38, who lived in New York City until she moved to Atlanta as a 20 year old, first visited her tribe’s ancestral lands in 1996 while escaping the crowds in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Since moving to Dorris, where she owns and operates Second Time Around, Bagwell has become involved in the contentious politics of the Shasta Indian Nation. The tribe, which does not have federal recognition, has been involved in a leadership dispute since 1999.
The lack of recognition is a sore spot.
“That’s a really ugly political issue. It’s a terrible injustice considering we were the largest tribe in the region,” said Bagwell. “We’re still working toward recognition. It’s a very, very important issue to me.”
The Shastas, unlike recognized tribes, have not been allowed to participate in negotiations involving the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which deals with water rights along the Klamath River.
“We would like our rights and our interests protected,” Bagwell said, noting concerns about tribal artifacts and fears sediment behind dams proposed for removal will destroy Klamath River fisheries.
The tribe opposes the proposed removal of four Klamath River dams and, she said, wants to work with the California Department of Fish and Game to create tribal fish hatcheries and participate in other projects.
“Our main objective,” Bagwell said, “is to establish a working relationship with local and state government agencies, tribes and community members so that we all may benefit.”
Page Updated: Tuesday December 01, 2009 02:48 AM Pacific
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