Umatilla Voices - The Rivers
Well, it's a lot different. . . mostly now
it's just lakes, you're just going from one lake to another - going
through the locks and each one with the dams, but it's not the same
at all. 'Cause way back before they built the dams you had all that
wild current to go through. There's a lot of difference. And then
the Dalles Dam covered up Celilo, so they used to have a canal along
the side of Celilo that the tugboats were in. But they don't have
to do that anymore - they just go through the locks and float off
through the lakes. . . . There were a lot of islands in the river.
Blalock Island was seven thousand acres. That was about eight miles
long and three miles wide. . . . So it was a big island. . .there
are small sections of it today that are sticking out of the water.
But when. . . not last year, but the year before, my daughter and
I took that trip on the Queen of the West. And Captain Wangle showed
Jean where some of the pieces were that showed that were parts of
the island. . . I couldn't recognize them. . . .most of it is under
Margaret D'Estrella, Umatilla resident, 1999
What's really affected the physical landscape
since I was a kid is the vast irrigation projects, the great circle
irrigation sprinkler systems have not only changed the landscape,
they've changed the climate. We used to have windstorms in the summer
time caused by thermal activity, hot sun on the desert and cold air
coming up the gorge, but we don't seem to have that any more. . .
. The land around here used to be mostly the sand, the sagebrush,
and jackrabbits. Boy those jackrabbits were extremely thick, the pheasants
were extremely thick, and when I was a boy, why we used to spend our
time either fishing, swimming, or hunting. Used to have a big problem
deciding everyday when I got up what I was going to do, and usually
I did all three.
Alva Stephens, Umatilla resident, 1999
I spent many hours down here on the Umatilla/Morrow
County line fishing for steelhead in the fall and the winter time.
. . . I had. . . just a right spot in there where the water was pretty
shallow, and at that time there was enough current that the steelhead
would swing over into that shallow water that didn't have such a strong
current, and they'd migrate upstream. And I caught a lot of fish down
there. . . they covered up my fishing hole, and I kind of lost interest
in fishing. . .
Roy Gunsolley, Umatilla resident, 1999/p>
I think we had as many people living on the Columbia River pre-Lewis & Clark that is living there today. So why do we got water that we canˆ¢t drink? Water that has to be filtered and processed before we drink? We canˆ¢t even drink water in the mountains anymore. Now I remember drinking water out of the mountain streams. I remember my father talking about dipping water out of Celilo in the fifties, the Columbia River, and drinking it. Can you imagine going down and let your kids drink water out of Celilo? The 1950s is fifty years, fifty years! That river has been so polluted we canˆ¢t drink out of it. Well, my god, whatˆ¢s going to happen in another fifty years? What are you going to leave your children? What are all of us going to leave our children? What are we doing to them? . . . Weˆ¢re leaving them nothing. Weˆ¢re killing the spirit of our children. Jeff Van Pelt, 1999
I watched it [Umatilla Basin Project] being
developed and I was at the dedication ceremony with the Indians, and
I go back there every year when they celebrate and I was able to talk
to them about that because when I come up here this river was virtually
dry - just a little trickle going down because they had to furnish
water for a small area just the other side of Old river Road. Down
on this end there's a small channel that goes in there, and that little
trickle of water was all there was in the river. . . and kids could
walk across it because there was nothing, there was no water in it.
And then to see it come back to where salmon [are] now, and talking
about salmon restoration, I think there was a beautiful example of
sound salmon recovery. And now. . . large numbers of salmon go up
that river. And that never happened before that. These are the kinds
of things that we need to work with the tribes on. . .
Mayor George Hash, 1999