For 19-year-old Danielle Frank, California’s Trinity River is a cultural lifeline.
“We are water people. We are river people,” she says. “And we believe that when our river drains and there is no more water left, we will no longer be here.”
Frank is a Hoopa tribal member and Yurok descendant. The Trinity River runs through her homeland.
“Our river has been declining in health for decades,” she says.
The river has been dammed, and water from the Trinity is often diverted to the Central Valley. Frank says those diversions — combined with droughts and global warming — are causing fish kills.
“The water levels are dropping so low that the water temperatures are skyrocketing to temperatures that salmon, not only can they not thrive, can they not spawn, they cannot survive in these areas,” she says.
So Frank is pushing for change. As the youth coordinator for the nonprofit Save California Salmon, Frank helps young people maintain their connection to the river and learn how to influence water policy.
“We only get to continue living the way that we’re meant to if our rivers are running freely, if our salmon are still there in our communities, and if we understand the way that these decisions are made and we can influence them,” she says.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media