Marlboro College presents ‘Salmon Is Everything’

Reading precedes talk on ecological stewardship, tribal sovereignty

MARLBORO — Marlboro College presents a reading of the play Salmon is Everything, directed by theater professor Jean O'Hara and followed by a community discussion led by writer Shaunna Oteka McCovey, a member of the Yurok Nation.

The dramatic reading and discussion is presented in collaboration with the Vermont Performance Lab as part of their weeks-long Confluence Project.

The event will take place Friday, May 11, at 7 p.m., in Marlboro College's Whittemore Theater, and is free and open to the public.

Salmon is Everything was created in 2006 by the Klamath Theatre Project, in response to the unprecedented premature death of more than 30,000 salmon along the Klamath River in 2002.

The project was a collaborative, community-university endeavor led by theater artist Theresa May, then a member of the faculty at Humboldt State University, California. The final version was written in collaboration with several playwrights, including Jean O'Hara, and published in 2014.

Salmon is Everything gives voice to the central spiritual and cultural role of salmon in the lives of the Pacific Northwest Tribes, as well as the ecological and social challenges faced by Indigenous communities in the region,” O'Hara said. “It represents a slice in time on the Klamath that is still just as relevant today. These same challenges are still there.”

The Klamath fish kill had an unprecedented impact throughout the watershed. For many Tribal communities the lack of salmon, so central to their lives, signified a deep loss to their traditional food and spiritual practices.

But in the political and ecological upheaval that followed, the role of salmon in tribal life went largely unacknowledged, which inspired some to explore the environmental and social impacts through art.

Based on interviews with members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, and Karuk tribes, biologists, ranchers, and farmers, Salmon is Everything tackles the complexity of how to share and take care of a river that is divided by geo-political lines, dams, and a painful history.

Since the first production of the play, many coalitions have been formed among the Klamath River communities, and together they have committed to the removal of all six dams by 2020.

Shaunna Oteka McCovey, who will lead the community discussion after the reading, is a poet, writer, and attorney with 12 years of experience in tribal sovereignty and marine resource planning.

In addition to contributing to the original collaboration that resulted in Salmon is Everything, she has published many poems, essays, and articles in journals and anthologies, as well as a book of poems, The Smokehouse Boys.

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