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Short Film: Guardians of the River

American Rivers presents: Guardians of the River

This river is our umbilical cord. What feeds us, what nurtures us. This reciprocal relationship that we have with it. I would do anything for this river, just like I would my own children. I would die for it, I would do anything before I would give up on it.

— Annelia Hillman, Yurok tribal member, Klamath Justice Coalition

Over hundreds of generations our families have developed a resiliency that can’t be beat, that can’t be destroyed. And no matter what happens, no matter what you take away, we’re always going to provide for our people, we’re always going to take care of our children, we’re always going to find a way to move forward.

— Sammy Gensaw, Yurok tribal member, Ancestral Guard


In this film by American Rivers and Swiftwater Films, Indigenous leaders share why removing four dams to restore a healthy Klamath River is critical for clean water, food sovereignty and justice.

“Guardians of the River” features Frankie Joe Myers, Vice Chair of the Yurok Tribe, Sammy Gensaw, director of Ancestral Guard, Barry McCovey, fisheries biologist with the Yurok Tribe, and members of the Ancestral Guard and Klamath Justice Coalition.

Four dams – Copco 1, Copco 2, Iron Gate and JC Boyle — block habitat and have devastated salmon populations. The reservoirs behind the dams encourage growth of algae that is toxic to people, pets and wildlife. Removing the dams will restore salmon access to more than 400 miles of habitat, improve water quality and strengthen local communities that rely on salmon for their food, economy and culture.

Following an agreement signed in November by the Yurok and Karuk tribes, the states of Oregon and California, Berkshire Hathaway and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, dam removal on the Klamath River is scheduled to begin in 2023.

“Without these salmon, our way of life is impossible,” Sammy Gensaw, Yurok tribal member and director, Ancestral Guard, says in the film. “We’ve dedicated years of our lives — our young lives — to give opportunity for the next generation to live on a healthy, dam-free river.”

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