On Celilo Falls: It’s time to light the fire….

By Sean Cruz

We live with the consequences of many disastrous public policy decisions, arguably none more plainly evident than the flooding of Celilo Falls, radioactive sites aside….

The flooding of Celilo Falls is the American equivalent of the Soviet decision to drain the Aral Sea, taken in the same era, the wrong people in charge, all thinking in the very same way….

This US Army Corp of Engineers movie was shot in 1956, one year before a confluence of short-sighted idiots at the state, local and federal levels deliberately destroyed all that you see here:


The Army film documents the fact that there was no shortage of information available to the decision-makers. They knew what they were about….

Another video, “See Through the Water”, tells the Celilo story in the words of the Celilo people themselves:


The rock structure of Celilo Falls lies intact below the surface of the pond that now covers this place.

Someday, a study will be taken, weighing the costs and benefits of reclaiming Celilo Falls and all that it stands for, versus the costs and benefits of maintaining the dam at The Dalles, and a decision will be made in favor of Celilo Falls and the salmon, someday….

It is only a matter of time until we get to that place, as these two videos make plain. There are costs and benefits either way. It’s time to do the math.

No reasonable person living today would consider building a dam to flood Celilo Falls. The notion, just like draining the Aral Sea, would be unthinkable….

There is a way to engineer getting the occasional barge up and down the river, and a way to generate power and a way to bring Celilo Falls back to life as surely as there is a way for a man to walk on the Moon….

Were it not for the terrible decisions of a previous generation, were Celilo Falls flowing today, this place would be regarded as one of the world’s greatest heritage sites, and every effort would be made to preserve the Falls and the cultures it sustained forever, to the last human breath, we would all stand together….

It is time to start the Celilo Falls clock ticking, time to do the math, time to stand vigil for the day that the waters roar and the earth shakes anew….

It is time to light the fire that will still be burning when Celilo Falls reappears, when the salmon leap and all the world celebrates, it is time to light the fire….

About 1000nations

Sean Aaron Cruz is Executive Director of 1000 Nations and a co-founder of The Friends of Celilo Falls. He is the organizer of the Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival. He is co-author of Winona LaDuke's new book, "The Militarization of Indian Country." He is the father of four children who disappeared into Utah in a Mormon abduction in 1996, and the author of Oregon's landmark anti-kidnapping statute "Aaron's Law" (Senate Bill 1041), named for his late son Aaron Cruz. He writes online as Blogolitical Sean.
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