Breath of Clarity

Final Research Proposal- The Klamath River


I envision there is remarkable insight cultivated through multiple lifetimes of listening. Over the course of his memoir, James McBride clears confusion about his identity by examining his past via connecting with his mother. Learning about one’s own heritage can reveal stories containing corridors not accessible any other way. The indigenous world view invites people to remember a rooted self-understanding, as the sense of community thrives in existing across lifetimes, and the philosophy is transportable. Therefore, studying indigenous land management and applying its tenants to the Klamath river is important because the approach opens restorationists to refreshing accessible knowledge.

I hope the paper may be a model for implementing indigenous principles into river restoration initiatives and shows how doing so is a strategy to sustain life of all beings in the area. Just as a musician specializes in a genre, native populations are experts about their habitats. The indigenous rendition of creation is not limited to historical explanations, but rather it contains imagery about the way we presently experience reality. Indigenous philosophy’s concept of mauri emphasizes that every material of the earth contains the same energy, a life-force evident in a river’s current. According to the perspective, since the same force is flowing through everything, there is no separation between a river’s flow and the heartbeat within the self. My aim is to depict the indigenous people’s understanding of life-force and proceed to identify additional ways to enhance the river’s heath which is represented by the survival of salmon. Such a study is grounds for strengthening the tribal voice in Klamath river natural resource management and, perhaps, is going to add a story for peers to pass onto future generations. While the existent literature addresses indigenous people’s particular strength in listening to the color of water and seeing conservation from a non-western perspective, there is a gap in the content considering the principles have not yet been directly applied to the Klamath.

Purpose of Study

My experience in New Zealand sparked my fascination with the value traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) brings to natural resource management. I was awed by the Maori indigenous population as I learned about their deep reverence for natural landscape, water, and the force sustaining life. The Maori study information, passed down by ancestors, about their homeland and then channel ancient philosophy to support the environment. They reveal, before planting a seed for growth, it is important to understand the sub-climate. That said, before diving into ecological restoration, it is crucial to develop a thorough understanding of the field. The optimal way of doing so is to utilize the breadth of insight ancestors already revealed. The result is effective collaboration in conducting operations which efficiently nourish the planet. I wonder to what extent traditional ecological knowledge supports salmon in the Klamath River.

Literature Review


There is abundant study about indigenous people’s presence surrounding natural resource management problems. Centering the paper around a certain location aids in understanding the degree to which indigenous philosophy is practical. To paint a vision of the Klamath river, authors depict its range and illustrate anthropogenic activity causing the death of salmon. Existing literature proceeds to identify the Klamath’s ecological problems, illustrate indigenous philosophy’s fundamental tenants, discusses tribal involvement in various restoration projects, references co-management techniques and offers potential strategies for improvement. While the politics of the region factor into the ability for indigenous people to contribute to Klamath river restoration, the paper demonstrates how TEK can theoretically guide proper conservation, as well as suggests potential gateways for indigenous strategy to be applied in saving the salmon.

Ecological Context

The Klamath is a transboundary river. It nourishes a set of sinks, lakes, wetlands. A study by Oliver et al depicts the basin encompasses around 40,632 square kilometers (KM) of the middle, southern area of Oregon and the left, northern corner of California (Oliver et al 2016). The river extends from the top of Klamath Lake to the Pacific, as it flows 402 KM. The Klamath Bureau of Reclamation project operates at the top section, which provides water to acres of agricultural land. The river’s range of stakeholders is complex including tribes, farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, government entities and two independent states. The water body is also home to a collection of Coho and Chinook salmon which are threatened by human activity such as commercial fishing, logging, urban development, dredge mining, and dams.

Human impoundments influence the spatial dynamics of its dissolved organic matter (DOM) which significantly alters river flow (Oliver et al 2016). Research identified a strong negative relationship between dissolved organic matter (DOM) and ecosystem function by using strategy such as photo-degradation, complexation, sorption, microbial processing, and mineralization (Oliver et al 2016).The salmon suffer consequence due to inconsistency in regards to nutrient cultivation and transport (Oliver et al 2016). A 5-year monitoring program sampling the river’s water across 212 KM revealed Ceratomyxa shasta is a parasite as a vicious pathogen of Chinook salmon and the river’s flow is not as strong in the presence of the parasite due to infection (Hallett et al 2012). Unfortunately, in 1999, the Klamath River was declared a coho salmon critical habitat (O’Dea 2013).

Indigenous Connection to the River

The river’s degradation profoundly affects indigenous families. For the Karuk tribe, fish historically accounted for a significant protein source, and continue to be an essential part of spiritual practices (Willette et al 2016). Considering research shows Karuk tribal members suffer health consequences from denied access to traditional foods, it is clear, “Karuk culture is inseparable from its ecological context” (Willette et al 2016, 375-376). Still, the court case Karuk Tribe of California v. U.S. Forest Service, reveals there is still room for improvement in terms of consultation between federal wildlife agencies and the indigenous people. The absence of consultation violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because the U.S. Forest Service never provided Notices of Intent (NOIs) before its mining projects (O’Dea 2013). Sharing stories and experiences, including collaboration between Native and non-Native community members, is also an important enactment of indigenous knowledge (Fox et al 2017). Cultural and ecological reproduction are intertwined as restrictions on the Karuk’s care for the river’s salmon in turn means knowledge is not transferred which creates additional ecological problems.

The salmon’s drastic impact on the Karuk reflects the life-force commonality principle of general TEK. A member from Maine’s indigenous Penobscot Nation said, “the river is us. The river is in our veins. If the rivers are the lifeblood of our Mother and they become contaminated, then the same happens to us” (Fox et al 2017, 530). The quotation emphasizes the lack of separation between the river and its people’s health. According to the Karuk worldview, the river and its inhabitants are living ancestors. Interconnected family networks are necessary for knowledge transfer as they are avenues for the passage of Karuk values. Since families are important sites for passing down culture, the indigenous people are raised with the responsibility to care for the species they consider as relatives through land management activities (Willette et al 2016). A tribal program manager from the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians spoke of the Brown Bridge dam removal’s benefit as he conveyed, “the tribe’s involvement in this is really waking up the state government, the local units of government, the local community, non-tribal community, to the importance of the river to the tribe” (Fox et al 2017, 531- 532). Showcasing TEK derived from reverence for the river has potential.

Co-Management Strategy

The relationship between Indigenous people and the river contains a unique motivation and commitment compared to the link amongst other groups and the water body. Non-indigenous tactics are typically directed by physical interventions, such as fish passage, channel reconfiguration, bank stabilization, floodplain reconnection, and in-stream habitat improvement. However, there is a gap in the conventional approaches and priorities (Fox et al 2017). On the other hand, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) involves negotiation between the tribal people and federal agencies (McCool 2018). A Ottawa and Chippewa councilor explained, considering the river may not look at matters the same way restorationists are viewing the elements their aiming to revitalize, it is logical for indigenous people “to talk to the design engineers and the consultants that work on these projects and have them, maybe not understand it at a spiritual level, but let us explain at an ecological level, supported by data, with that spirituality behind it” (Fox et al 2017, 532). The mentality leads to focusing on the restoration as a truly sustainable process.

Incorporating indigenous knowledge can shift the time frame of restoration, resulting in thorough support to sincerely equip future generations. For example, the Ti Bar Demonstration Project set policy change into motion. Since back in the day, the US Forest Service has responded to wildfire by suppressing the flames (Norgaard 2014). As a result, the inhabitants have experienced decreased habitat for large game such as elk and deer, which are both traditional food sources (Norgaard 2014). Moreover, putting out wildfires resulted in reduction of amount and quality of acorns, transforming harvest seasons of basketry materials such as hazel and willow, and high fuel loads (Norgaard 2014). According to Norgaard, through the Ti Bar Demonstration Project, the Karuk leaders implemented prescribed burning as a form of land management. Since the Karuk were part of the project workforce and were physically present at the scene, they conducted the restoration with identification skills specific to the Klamath region. For example, tribal crews could strategically sift for groupings of tan oak mushrooms and protect the substance which is one of the tribe’s classic ingredients and it does not co-exist well with fire (Diver 2016). From the indigenous perspective, river restoration is a journey of hiking deep into a situation’s context for the purpose of listening. A tribal nation elected official from New Zealand’s Waikato-Tainui noted, “to understand what the river needs, we have to look at what the river sees. Getting community members out on the river helps us view the world from her eyes” (Fox et al 2017, 532). Direct engagement with the river enables indigenous people to learn respect and appropriate solutions not only from their ancestors, rather also from the river itself (Willette et al 2016). Moreover, The Waitkato-Tainui official stated, “we’ll know our Nanny [the Waikato River] is on a healthy path when she can take care of herself” (Fox et al 2017, 532). Here, it’s evident the Karuk are aiming to remove human impoundments inhibiting the river from healing through its natural course.


The Klamath river’s natural resource management of the past can aid in understanding how to collaborate going forward. The trial regarding ESA showed the importance of collective decision-making. The Ti Bar Demo project never finished and was completed halted in 2000, as it was caused by a replacement in key U.S. Forest Leadership positions (Diver 2016). Similarly, the variety of stakeholders in the Klamath Basin resolved many of the substantial conflicts; however, settlements ultimately failed due to inability to pass in congress (McCool 2018). The lesson is to be mindful of groups who are direct contributors to decisions. Collaboration needs to consider the veto power of certain stakeholders (McCool 2018). Understanding the bureaucracy dictating the river’s health and creating strategies to break the pattern is crucial to reveal whether TEK truly supports the salmon. My hypothesis is TEK does not support the salmon population.



The study’s participants involve members from multiple groups including tribes, fishermen, and federal natural resource managers. I decided to select members from all of these groups because they are all impacted by the salmon population and are aiming to strengthen their voice in the land rights issue. They all bring different interests to the table, as well. While both the tribal people and fishermen hunt salmon in the Klamath, they use different methods and harvest different quantities of fish. The federal natural resource managers ideally aim to nourish all needs involved and take economic pressures into account. I am going to distribute 50 surveys through every group’s supervisor to aim for a substantial response rate. I am aiming for 30 participants, respectively, from each group.


Before distributing the survey, I am going to send out a thorough consent form requesting approval and commitment to participation. I would start by including a detailed auto-biography to establish trust with the potential participants. Then, I would proceed to describe the project which creates space for potential participants to relate to the topic. From there, it is crucial I thoroughly explain TEK so they can feel equipped to answer questions pertaining to it. Further, the section is going to highlight potential privacy concerns such as job security which may be particularly crucial to the federal government workers as well as fishermen working for large-scale operations. Subsequently, the consent form is going to explain the privacy is protected by conveying the survey is intended to provide only the given study’s researchers with informative background info about the Klamath river’s inhabitants and generate statistics pertinent to the project. Furthermore, I plan on inviting the participants to write personal privacy concerns and questions at the end of the consent form. That way, I can contact the participant before conducting the survey to address the issues which is going to increase their comfort before the actual survey. Listing a thirty-minute time commitment for the survey is also conducive to generating participation. Moreover, I am going to clearly illustrate benefits, such as the choice of a custom Klamath river t-shirt or $30 reward, for completing the survey.

The survey entails two sets of three questions, one open-ended and two closed-ended. All of the closed-ended questions (numbered two and three in each set) are going to be statements as they have the following Likert-type answer options: strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree, strongly disagree. Designing the answer options as so facilitates a decision that is not too complicated for respondents and offers many paths for data analysis. While the first set (A) is going to measure the participant perception of TEK at the Klamath river, the latter set (B) inquires about the salmon’s decline.

The survey questions are:

A.1) What actions do you observe impacting the fulfillment of needs at the river?

A.2) Non-indigenous people incorporate traditional ecological knowledge at the river.

A.3) The river’s polices and infrastructure incorporate traditional ecological knowledge.

B.1) What changes have you observed in the river’s ecological conditions overtime?

B.2) There has been a change in the salmon population’s behavior overtime.

B.3) There has been a decline in the salmon population overtime.

Each question guides a progression of insight into the research question. Initially, A1 aims to identify whether stakeholder needs instigate actions aligned with traditional ecological knowledge. The way it aligns with my research question is it provides background information regarding the actions which may or may not be aligned with TEK. A1 aligns with my hypothesis because it is going to reveal the number of participants who summarize actions taken at the river being conducive to TEK. From there, I inquire further in A2 and A3 to determine whether TEK is significantly utilized in decision-making. While A2 tests TEK’s implementation at a micro level, A3 tests TEK’s implementation at a macro level. Doing so enables me to test whether or not the river’s natural resource management is incorporating TEK.

Next, the second set of questions determine the state of the salmon population. B1 provides insight into the research question because it invites the participants to speak about a variety of changes to the river’s condition overtime. So, B1 provides context and measures whether the salmon’s health is a serious issue of concern amongst the participants. B1 aligns with my hypothesis because it is going to reveal the number of participants who mention a decline in salmon population. B1 is also applicable to my hypothesis because I expect it is going to determine whether other ecological changes are correlated to the wildlife development. The last two questions are focused on the salmon in order to reveal insight about its current condition. B2 tests how the existing natural resource management specifically impacts the salmon, rather than only looking at the salmon on a life or death basis. Finally, B3 is included to see whether I can confirm existing research illustrating the salmon population has decreased overtime.


The following instructions outline specific techniques I am using to generate accurate results. A key aspect of the procedure is being certain I can contact the leadership entities of the survey’s participants. Getting the leadership onboard is the initial step because they are the ones who are going to advocate for me by motivating members to complete the survey. I plan on contacting the Karuk Tribal Council leadership personnel to discuss a synopsis of the study and request their participation in the survey. I plan on calling them at the phone number (530-493-1600) listed on the website. In the case of no response, I can send them a letter at PO Box 1016 in Happy Camp, California 96039. I can even fill out a form to contact them directly through the tribe’s website. If I still cannot get a hold of them, I can drive to the address 64236 Second Avenue in Happy Camp, California 96039 and ask for the leadership team in person. I would need to request contact with the Natural Resources department watershed division, specifically dealing with water quality, habitat restoration and fisheries. I can also ask to be added to the tribal council meeting agenda by speaking with Barbara Snider in the administration office. I can also request to attend the meeting and add content to the agenda by emailing After getting invited to a meeting, I plan on presenting a pitch of the project and sending the consent form to the appropriate leadership team member.

The next leadership team I am going to contact is the commercial fishing group Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association (PCFFA). The organization’s phone number is 416-561-5080. In the case of no response, I can email or send them a letter at PO Box 29370 in San Francisco, California 94129-0370. If I still cannot get a hold of them, I can drive to the Building 991 (Coast Guard Building) on Marine Drive in San Francisco, California and ask for the leadership team in person. I am hoping they can connect me to commercial fishermen who regularly conduct activity at the Klamath river. Subsequently, I will present a pitch of the project and send the consent form to the appropriate fishermen leader.

Finally, to accumulate responses from federal natural resource managers, I plan on reaching out to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. As of August 2020, Jeffrey Nettleton is the Area Manager of the Klamath Basin office. I plan on calling him at 541-883-6935. In the case of no response, I can send a letter to 6600 Washburn Way in Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603-9365 with the mail code KO-100. In the case I am not able to correspond with him, I can contact Ernest Conant who is the Regional Director at 916-978-5001. In the case of no response, I can send a letter to 2800 Cottage Way in Sacramento, California 95825-1898 with the mail code CGB-100. After eventually getting in touch with either Nettleton or Conant, I will present a pitch of the project and send the consent form to the appropriate leaders. Solidifying my communication with the group leaders enables me to proceed with the next steps.

At the time I send consent forms to the leaders, I am also going to ask them to distribute it to 50 members of each team. From there, I am going to call each leader in order to check on the consent form response rate and request the leaders send out a reminder to their teams. After that, I plan on e-mailing each leader to collect the completed consent forms. Collecting the consent forms is going to provide me with the participant contact information. From there, I will distribute the surveys via e-mail. After two weeks pass, I will e-mail those who agreed to participate but did not yet fill out the survey. Finally, following an additional two weeks, I will send one reminder e-mail to those I am still waiting on responses from. Lastly, after a month has gone by, I will send a hand-written thank you note in the post office mail to all who responded and begin organizing the data.

I will store the closed-ended response data in Microsoft Excel. On the first page of the spreadsheet, column A is going to list the question. Column B is going to list the number of respondents from the tribal group for each question. Column C is going to list the number of respondents from the fishermen group for each question. Column D is going to list the number of respondents from the federal natural resource managers group for each question. That way, I can get a sense of whether or not my survey results are going to reflect equal input from each group.

On the second page of the spreadsheet, column A is going to list all the closed-ended questions. Columns B is going to be a tally of the number of “strongly agree” answer selections for each given question. Column C is going to be a tally of the “agree” answer selections for each given question. Column D is going to be a tally of the “neither agree nor disagree” answer selections for each given question. Column E is going to be a tally of the “disagree” answer selections for each given question. Column F is going to be a tally of the “strongly disagree” answer selections for each given question. That way, I am going to have all of the closed-ended responses sorted.

The third page of the spreadsheet is going to merge the data from pages one and two. That said, on the third page of the spreadsheet, column A is going to list all the closed-ended questions. Columns B is going to be a list of percentages which displays the ratio depicting the number of each question’s “strongly agree” responses to each question’s total number of responses. Column C is going to be a list of percentages which displays the ratio depicting the number of each question’s “agree” responses to each question’s total number of responses. Column D is going to be a list of percentages which displays the ratio depicting the number of each question’s “neither agree nor disagree” responses to each question’s total number of responses. Column E is going to be a list of percentages which displays the ratio depicting the number of each question’s “disagree” responses to each question’s total number of responses. Column F is going to be a list of percentages which displays the ratio depicting the number of each question’s “strongly disagree” responses to each question’s total number of responses. From there, I am going to have all the closed-ended response results.

Next, on a word document, I am going to organize the open-ended responses. I plan on making three headings which correspond to the respective population groups. Then, I am going to paste each group’s answers to survey question A1. I am going to divide the list into two sections. The two sections are going to be responses mentioning actions in agreement with TEK and responses mentioning actions in disagreement with TEK. After that, on a separate word document, I am going to make the same three headings and paste each group’s answers to survey question B1. I am going to divide the list into two sections. The two sections are going to be responses mentioning a decline in salmon population and responses not mentioning the decline. With all that said, I am equipped to store the data and start the analysis.

I am proposing to measure correlation between the present application of TEK at the Klamath river and its salmon population’s health. I am going to test my hypothesis by measuring correlation in the closed-ended responses. Since the literature review revealed the capability of TEK to restore rivers, I concentrated my survey on understanding whether TEK is applied at the location specific to the study. The extent to which participants agree with statements A2 and A3 determines the extent to which TEK is applied at the river. Insofar as participants strongly agree in A2 and A3, then my hypothesis is incorrect. Insofar as participants strongly disagree in A2 and A3, my hypothesis is true. Since the literature review revealed the salmon population is severely declining, I concentrated my survey on confirming the science from the eyes of stakeholders. The extent to which participants agree with statements B2 and B3 determines the extent to which the salmon population is declining with the current natural resource management in place. Therefore, the study is going to reveal to what extent TEK supports the salmon population in the Klamath river, particularly showing the extent to which indigenous people are involved in the river’s natural resource management.

Further, I am going to test my hypothesis by using content analysis in the open-ended questions. The purpose of using content analysis for my project is to examine patterns in communication in a replicable and systematic manner. By systematically evaluating the survey responses, I can convert the qualitative data into quantitive data. As a result, I can use the answers to test my hypothesis. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of TEK’s definition from the literature review enables me to successfully evaluate responses from the first open-ended question. Insofar as A1 reveals actions fulfilling stakeholder needs align with TEK, my hypothesis is incorrect. Insofar as A1 reveals actions fulfilling stakeholder needs do not align with TEK, my hypothesis is correct. The question is crucially testing for the presence of TEK being implemented amongst the existing salmon population’s conditions. Insofar as B1 reveals observation of changes which result from implementation of TEK, my hypothesis is incorrect. Insofar as B1 reveals observation of changes which would otherwise be prevented by implementation of TEK, my hypothesis is correct. Then, I can compare the results from B1 to B2 and B3. From there, I can understand what changes to the river’s ecological conditions overtime are correlated to the salmon population’s conditions. Incorporating A1, A2 and A3 enables me to determine the extent to which TEK is being implemented. Then, I will be able to determine the relationship between the extent to which TEK is implemented and the salmon’s health.


I am going to use the research to improve river conditions at the Klamath Basin. Incorporating the literature review into the anticipated results is crucial because I need to distinguish the potential of TEK to support the salmon population from the actual application of TEK at the river. There is no gap in the literature review depicting how TEK is useful in restoration. However, the study is more so measuring the extent to which stakeholders implement TEK. Further, based upon the literature review, I expect the survey results to confirm a decline in the salmon population overtime. That said, my anticipated results are going to show while restoration embedded with TEK has the capability to support the salmon, until shortcomings of the area’s co-management are abolished, TEK does not support the salmon.

Therefore, the study’s function is going to be grounds for giving the tribal groups greater influence over natural resource management decisions. The information is useful for federal agencies, including both the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service. Considering the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are a part of the study’s population, I am hopeful federal organizations are going to be open to the survey results. Either way, particularly the literature review, as well as the tribal survey answers, are going to be useful to children of the Karuk. I can provide the tribal council with the study’s answers so they can teach TEK’s place in restoration and the river’s conditions to future generations. The survey responses are going to help understand how stakeholders interact with the river. Depicting human needs and evolving river conditions is going to propel introspection because the exploration of people’s relationship to the river reveals self-knowledge. Going forward, the data analysis is going to instigate other research into how people can effectively restore waters.


Diver, Sibyl. 2016. “Co-Management as a Catalyst: Pathways to Post-Colonial Forestry in the Klamath Basin, California”. Human Ecology. 44. pp: 533-546.

Fox, Coleen, Nicholas James Reo, Dale A. Turner, JoAnne Cook, Frank Dituri, Brett Fessell, James Jenkins, Aimee Johnson, Terina M. Rakena, Chris Riley, Ashleigh Turner, Julian Williams, Market Wilson. 2017. “‘The River is Us; The River is in Our Veins’: Re- Defining River Restoration in Three Indigenous Communities”. Sustainability Science. 12. pp: 521-533.

Hallett, Sasha, R. Adam Ray, Charlene N. Hurst, Richard A. Holt, Gerri R. Buckles, Stephen D. Atkinson, Jerri L. Bartholomew. 2012. “Density of the Waterborne Parasite Ceratomyxa shasta and Its Biological Effects on Salmon”. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 78 (10). pp: 3724-3731.

McCool, Daniel. 2018. “Integrated Water Resources Management and Collaboration: The Failure of the Klamath River Agreements”. Policy History. 30 (1). pp: 83-104.

Norgaard, Kari. 2014. “The Politics of Fire and the Social Impacts of Fire Exclusion on the Klamath”. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations. 36. pp: 77-101.

O’Dea, Elise. 2013. “A Salmon’s Travels: The Forest Service’s Struggle to Secure Proper Environmental Protection”. Ecology Law Quarterly. 40 (20). pp: 565-572.

Oliver, Alison, Robert G. M. Spencer, Michael L. Deas, Randy A. Dahlgren. 2016. “Impact of Seasonality and Anthropogenic Impoundments on Dissolved Organic Matter Dynamics in the Klamath River (Oregon/California USA)”. Geophysical Research: Biosciences. 121 (7). pp: 1946-1958.

Willette, Mirranda and Kari Norgaard. 2016. “You Got to Have Fish: Families, Environmental Decline and Cultural Reproduction”. Families, Relationship and Societies. 5 (3). pp: 375-392.

Comment by Professor Jeral Kirwan:

Mary, I appreciate your efforts on your final proposal. I made some specific comments in the body of your submission focusing on how well you incorporated feedback and the overall quality of the proposal. It has been a pleasure working with you the past few weeks and I wish you the best as you move forward. Please let me know if you have any questions.