Next Monday, Mar 14, religious and tribal leaders from the Snake River and Columbia Basins are leading a one-day conference at Boise State University on ethics and the future of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Idaho Conservation League is one of ten cosponsors of the conference, entitled One River-Ethics Matter.

The conference will explore the moral dimensions of the dam-building era, with a focus on Indian tribes and First Nations and the rivers themselves. The conference is spurred by two events: renegotiation of the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty and relicensing of Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Complex of three dams.

Many are unaware of the Snake River and Columbia River dams’ negative effects on native people and their exclusion from the decisions to build them. The dams severely affected tribes and First Nations-with harm to their people, cultures and lawful rights-yet no consultation with tribes occurred and the tribes gave no consent for their construction.

Speakers will explore ethical frameworks for decision making that embrace indigenous people, salmon and the waters of both rivers. Native people directly affected by dam-building will describe past and present effects on their people and cultures, and native and religious leaders will describe opportunities to modernize river management and promote justice for all people and the health of the river.

Charlotte Rodrique, chair of the Burns-Paiute Tribe, will speak at the  conference. She has recently been prominent in national and regional  media for opposing the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Other  speakers include Pauline Terbasket, director of the Okanagan Nation  Alliance in British Columbia; Bishop Martin Wells, Eastern  Washington-Idaho Lutheran Synod; Ted Howard, cultural resources director  of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes; Leotis McCormack, Nez Perce Tribal  Executive Committee; and Rabbi Daniel Fink, Congregation Ahavath Beth  Israel in Boise.

This Boise conference, following others held in Spokane, Wash., and Portland, Ore., is one of a three-part series titled “One River-Ethics Matter.” The Columbia River pastoral letter issued by Northwest Catholic bishops in 2001 provides a foundation and framework for the conference series. This One River-Ethics Matter” series will use the Columbia River pastoral letter to help establish a foundation for water ethics and future decisions on water use.

If interested, mark your calendar for Monday, Mar 14, 8:30-4:00, and get your ticket by Thursday, Mar 10. The conference will be held at the BSU Student Union Building.