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A series of conferences as part of the Ethics & Treaty Project.

“Tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada suffered profound damage and loss from Columbia and Snake River dams.  Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty is a critical opportunity for Canada and the United States to join together in acknowledging damage done, right historic wrongs, and commit to stewardship of this great river in the face of climate change.”   

       – John Sirois, One River, Ethics Matter conference, Gonzaga University, May 2014

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Pastoral Letter
Combining the Pastoral Letter with tools used by hospital ethics committees provides the framework we use for promoting stewardship and justice principles in modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

South Africa had its “Truth & Reconciliation” process in response to apartheid.  No such public dialogue has yet occurred in the United States and Canada on the wrenching impacts of the dam-building era on the Columbia River, tribes, and First Nations. “One River, Ethics Matter.” are the four words that describe a series of community conferences based on the Columbia River Pastoral Letter to encourage regional and international dialogue about the future of the Columbia River.

Ceremony of Tears, Colville women
Kettle Falls, Ceremony of Tears. Colville Tribal women in ceremonial dress, gathered for the Ceremony of Tears.
In June 1940, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people mourned the drowning of Kettle Falls at a “Ceremony of Tears” organized by the Colville Confederated Tribes and attended by representatives of the Yakama, Spokane, Nez Perce, Salish, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Coeur d’Alene, Tulalip, Pend Oreille, and other tribes. Kettle Falls slipped beneath the rising waters of Lake Roosevelt on July 5, 1941. (Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture photo)

These conferences encourage justice and stewardship as summarized in the Declaration on Ethics and Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.  The declaration issued from the first conference hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane, and is supported by religious, Tribal, and First Nation leaders.

The Portland conference will occur one month after Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress.  In a time of climate change with shifting rainfall patterns and changes in regional water resources, these community conferences in both Canada and the United States intend to build support for a new model for resolving international water conflicts based on ethical principles of stewardship and justice.

When:  Saturday October 24, 2015

Where:  University of Portland

Why this conference is timely for the future of the Columbia River

The stated goal of the regional recommendation is for both countries to develop a modernized Treaty framework that reflects the actual value of coordinated power operations with Canada, maintains an acceptable level of flood risk and supports a resilient and healthy ecosystem-based function throughout the Columbia River Basin. It is important to achieve a modernized framework for the Treaty that balances power production, flood risk management, and ecosystem-based function as the primary purposes addressed in the Treaty, while also meeting other congressionally authorized purposes of the U.S. projects, such as irrigation and navigation.    – U.S. Regional Recommendation

After several years of a collaborative Sovereign Participation Process that involved several federal agencies, the region’s sovereign states, federally recognized tribes and hundreds of stakeholders, the U.S. Entity responsible for implementing the Treaty submitted the Regional Recommendation on the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024  to the U.S. Department of State on December 13, 2013. After a similar process that involved discussions with First Nations and local governments, supported by learning sessions hosted by the Columbia Basin Trust the Province of British Columbia reached a decision on their preferred future of the Columbia River Treaty.

The Regional Recommendation is now being reviewed by the U.S. Department of State. We are using this series of Treaty & Ethics conferences to bring additional voices into the on-going conversation and to encourage the U.S.Department of State, the Province of British Columbia, and Canada to make their decisions about the future of the Treaty in the context of their ethical obligations to the tribes, First Nations and citizens of the Columbia Basin.

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Hosted by the University of Portland



McNerney-Hanson Chair in Ethics  *  Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission  *  Environmental Studies Department, University of Portland  *  Okanagan Nation Alliance  *  Upper Columbia United Tribes  *  Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon  *  Upper Snake River Tribes Foundation  *  Pacific Rivers Council  *  WaterWatch of Oregon  *  Citizens for a Clean Columbia  *  Columbia Riverkeeper  *  Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society  *  Sweo Chair in Engineering  *  Center for Environmental Law & Policy  *  The Roskelley Family  *  Molter Chair in Science   *  Save Our wild Salmon  *  Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture  *  Columbia Institute for Water Policy  *  Loo Wit Group, Sierra Club  *  Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter  *  ATRIA  *  Francis Maltby  *  Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club  *  Oregon Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


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