From June 18 to 27, 2018, the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium (PNWCSC) led a professional development training—a ten-day experiential field course to many sites on the Upper Columbia River in Washington State and British Columbia. Participants included four academics, four graduate students, and two independent scholars from PNWCSC organizations. It was supported by the Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington and a Collaborative Research Mobility Award, Cascadia Engagement Fund—University of British Columbia and the University of Washington. By touring facilities along the river and engaging with local community members—including Indigenous communities and scholars—about the impacts of the dams on the regional economies, cultures, and ecosystems, this field course seeks to broaden knowledge and understanding of the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the United States.
The Columbia River flows from its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies, through British Columbia and Washington State, and empties into the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon. The Columbia River is over 1,200 miles long—the longest river in the Pacific Northwest—with a drainage basin the size of France. The Columbia has provided transportation, salmon, meeting places, and sacred sites to people in the region for over ten thousand years. In 1964, Canada and the United States ratified the Columbia River Treaty. The treaty’s purpose is solely for hydroelectric power generation and flood control. Today, more than sixty dams control the Columbia River watershed. Currently, a movement to include ecosystems values in the management of the Columbia River basin is gaining momentum. Working in alliance and separately, Indigenous groups (e.g., Upper Columbia United Tribes and the Okanagan Nation Alliance) environmental groups (e.g., Center for Environmental Law & Policy), ecumenical groups (e.g., the 2001 “Columbia River Pastoral Letter”), and academics (e.g., University Consortium on Columbia River Governance) have advocated for adding ecosystems values to the Columbia River Treaty. Beginning in 2014, either country may give ten-year notice to terminate the treaty or renegotiate it. This past May, Canada and the United States began negotiations to modernize the treaty. However, notably absent from the negotiating table are Indigenous experts and prioritizing ecosystem values. The Columbia River Treaty Field Course is part of the local effort to facilitate a more inclusive and diverse dialogue concerning the modernization of the treaty.
The field course included visits to the Chief Joseph Fish Hatchery and Dam, Keenslyside Dam, and Mica Dam, as well as presentations by scholars from UBC, UBC Okanagan, the Colville Tribe, and Syilx First Nation, to mention a few. The course was led by Morna McEachern, Program Manager, Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium, University of Washington; Eric Finke, Mediation and Facilitation for Environmental and Natural Resources, Bellingham, Washington; and Mary Tuti Baker (Kanaka ‘oiwi), Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Brown University. Participants included Stan de Mello, Co-Director, Office of Field Education, School of Social Work, University of Washington; Samuel Johnson, Executive Director, Columbia Maritime Museum, Astoria, Oregon; Karen Katigbak, MSW candidate, School of Social Work, Portland State University; Iris Lippert, MS candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington; Michael Mugambe, MSW candidate, School of Social Work, University of Washington; Tyler Nodine, MS candidate, Environmental Planning, University of California, Berkeley; and Stan Thayne, Visiting Assistant Professor, Departments of Anthropology and Religion, Whitman College.
The Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, is secretariat for the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium, which has been committed to enhancing cooperation between universities, community colleges, and organizations in the Pacific Northwest since 1986. The Consortium hosts an annual general meeting and biennial field course. The field course provides professional development training to faculty, graduate students, and practitioners from member institutions. This year’s field course focused on the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty. The program was also the key activity of a Collaborative Research Mobility Award, Cascadia Engagement Fund, University of British Columbia (UBC) and University of Washington (UW). The Collaborative Mobility award provides funding to build and strengthen research networks between UBC and UW. Professor John Wagner, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and Dr. Morna McEachern, Program Manager, Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium, serve as co-PIs of the award.
The Columbia River Field Course was made possible thanks to funding from the Pacific Northwest Canadian Studies Consortium; the Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington (from the Center’s Title VI grant, International and Foreign Language Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education); and a Collaborative Research Mobility Award, Cascadia Engagement Fund, University of British Columbia and University of Washington.