TABLE OF CONTENTS
We Can Achieve What We Can Envision
From Ernie Merrifield, With Love
Wylaki - First American
Round Valley Reservation Member
and FOER Board Member
Many, many scores and seven years ago, my forefathers lived here on this good earth when the harmonious forces of nature were blended, season by season, in such a perfect manner that they resulted in a near-paradise environment for all the plants and animals. The land of our forefathers was at the epitome of its natural health. Without any kind of disturbance, Mother Earth was assured that the sun would shine brightly, the refreshing winds would blow, the plants would grow, and the rivers wild and free and pure would flow’Ä¶to their hearts' content.
The rivers and their tributaries were filled with food: during the various seasons they provided a passageway for an unbelievable abundance of salmon, eels, sturgeon, steelhead and smaller aquatic life for reproduction and food for the animals and plants (as fertilizer).
The entire watershed surrounding the Eel River and all its tributaries contained a magnificent balance of evergreen conifers and deciduous trees, deep-rooted grasslands, meadows, marshy glades, and beautiful fertile valleys, which were teeming with a great variety of healthy wildlife’Äîso many they were uncountable’Äîand they all contributed to making the land a healthier place to live.
Deer and elk herds were everywhere, and humans harvested them for food, clothing, tools and ceremonial regalia. Quail, grouse, ducks, geese and other birds were harvested not only for food but also for the beautiful feathers, used for ceremonial regalia, decorating tools and hunting equipment, and very cherished basketry.
The Eel River watershed provided a vast amount of vegetation for food and medicine for tribal members to gather within their "backyards." Elders told stories about traveling no more than two to three miles from their home village to hunt, fish or gather all the food they needed, plus firewood and home building materials. Water was everywhere: rivers and mountain streams ran throughout the year, and many springs provided cold fresh water, even during summer months.
For more than fifteen thousand years my ancestors lived in harmony within this "paradise" setting, and they lived a positive spiritual life by giving thanks to the Great Creator for being blessed with a wonderful life. Even though the Human population was great in number within the watershed, elders told of the ever-increasing abundance of the "fish people," the "four-legged people," the "feathered people," as well as an increase in acorns, camas (potatoes) and all the other greenery that contributed to good health. What my ancestors saw was what they could get! As it was needed’Ä¶.
There were thousands of Human Beings (First Americans’Äîa label preferred by President Obama in a speech delivered to more than 500 Tribal Presidents in Washington, DC, January 2010) living within the Eel River watershed from Snow Mountain in the south to the mouth of the Eel at Ferndale to the north. More than 8,000 Human Beings lived in Round Valley and the surrounding foothills, which encompass more than 100,000 acres of prime fertile land. Round Valley is in the center of the Eel River watershed, with the Middle Fork on the east, the Main Fork on the southwest, and the North Fork on the northern slopes. This magnificent Eel River watershed, at its most mature and pristine, supported a population of more than 30,000 Human Beings, plus all the other flora and fauna within the region. What a paradise, what a picture of life and natural forces existing in perfect harmony!
Our paradise began to be lost when the land was invaded by people from a different land, with their minds possessing a different consciousness: "Take from the land for personal gain and monetary profit, without a thought of giving back to protect the land."¬ÝFish, grasslands, water and timber/wood products were the first natural resources to be exploited and cashed out (including by well drilling and mining) until the greed nearly depleted all resources. And worse, the people systematically engaged in genocide against the Human Beings who interfered with those people who were determined to steal the land. It was truly a blessing that some people "morphed" themselves into Human Beings and then advocated for "Reserves" to be established so that there would not be a total annihilation of the "First Americans." Elk and deer herds were killed so there would be more food for the livestock operators' flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. For the First Americans it seemed that "evil spirits" were turned loose in every direction. Dams were built, tunnels and aqueducts constructed to steal the water and move it to profitable business ventures. The uncountable abundance of fish was seen as millions of dollar signs. The trees could not run and hide to save their lives so were slaughtered where they stood.
For the First Americans, the most heartbreaking experience caused by the invasion of people was the destruction of the rivers and tributaries. The destruction of a river is apparent when the fish nearly become extinct, when very little vegetation exists along the banks, and very few birds, wildlife, and Human Beings come to find food, for the river no longer has much to offer. Because of so many years of terrible abuse, the river cannot naturally flow.
My ancestors have given to me and other descendents the vision and true picture of nature in its finest health. I and others have witnessed so much destruction during the past 60 years that hopelessness becomes entwined with thoughts for the future. But Human Beings spiritually believe that Mother Earth is all-powerful and can revive by the powers of nature and by the positive powers of Human Beings.
One of the brightest signs of the change in consciousness is how the environment is "seen" by empowered First American Federally Recognized Tribes. Many First American Tribes are now working diligently to improve their watersheds and restore natural river flows, thereby reviving the fisheries, flora and fauna and creating a healthier environment.
Also encouraging: As growing numbers of people become more humane and educated and aware of the condition of Mother Earth's life blood, they want to stop the devastation and waste, and begin to love and respect the Earth again. When more and more of us can see the picture, the vision of a pure and healthy watershed, then our energies will be combined "to achieve what we can envision."
We all can "see the way" to save the Eel River and her tributaries, and that is to remove Scott Dam and release Lake Pillsbury, and then remove the Van Arsdale diversion dam, and finally close down the diversion tunnel, which goes through the mountain into the Potter Valley/PG&E hydroelectric turbines. After these impediments are removed and gone forever, people will learn to live within the means of their respective watersheds.
As for the Eel River, her original spirit will be revived, she will come back to life and again be an abundant life-giver’Ä¶and we shall all visualize, once again, that magnificent picture. OH!!