Since time immemorial, the Klamath Tribes have relied on the endemic c’waam (Lost River sucker) and koptu (shortnose sucker) fish populations, that only swim in the Upper Klamath Lake, to survive.
In the mid-20th century, the c’waam were so abundant that tribal elders said you could walk across their backs. For the last 35 years however, the Klamath Tribes haven’t eaten either.
For decades, since even before the Klamath Tribes were reinstated in 1986, populations of the fish have been drastically falling due to dammed waterways; unchecked and unlawful drainage for irrigation by nearby, non-Native farmers and ranchers; and the systematic destruction and removal of riparian zones along the basin. In 1988, c’waam and koptu were placed on the endangered species list. Today, only about 19,000 fish are left.
Tribal Council Secretary Roberta Frost says the Klamath Basin has been living far beyond what its water budget can tolerate, which has resulted in the declining health of Upper Klamath Lake.
“We cannot keep pretending to be surprised by poor water years and conflicts among agriculture and endangered species, nor can people hope to keep relying on single year, quick-fix bailouts to paper over the systemic problems,” Frost said. “The catastrophe of this year throws into stark relief how desperately the Basin needs to move to a more sustainable footing.”
Alongside low water levels, annual toxic algae blooms kill most of the young fish that are the future of the species. Adult fish can live for 30 years or more, but most are reaching the end of their natural lifespans. Scientists with the Tribes fear they could be extinct in fewer than 5 to 10 years.
“The collapse of c’waam and koptu fisheries has marched virtually in lock step with the declining health of Upper Klamath Lake, the largest body of freshwater west of the Rocky Mountains,” Councilwoman Willa Powless said. “The lake was once a major destination for boating, birding, wildlife watching, paddling, and fishing. Today, people avoid the lake from late spring into fall in most years.”
In partnership with the Klamath Tribes, Seeding Justice is proud to present the Ambo Fund, which accepts contributions from foundations and individuals to directly benefit The Klamath Tribes as they work to save the endangered c’waam and koptu fish populations in the upper Klamath Lake. Their goal is to provide fish restoration to upper Klamath Lake, rebuild riparian areas, and continue to defend their rightful ownership of water rights in the basin.
“This is an opportunity for everyday people to show their support for the Klamath Tribes in a real and tangible way,” said Seeding Justice Executive Director Se-ah-dom Edmo. “The drought has only exacerbated the declining health of the Upper Klamath Lake. If we don’t act now, we likely won’t get another chance.”
Some Frequently Asked Questions
The Ambo Fund was established in June 2021 for the Klamath Tribes as they work to save the endangered c’waam and koptu fish populations in the upper Klamath Lake. It was approved by the Klamath Tribal Council through an agreement between the Tribe and Seeding Justice. Seeding Justice transfers the total amount in the fund to the Tribe each month.
The best way to donate money is to give directly to the Ambo Fund at Seeding Justice on our website or via check.
Donations made through Facebook fundraisers can take up to two months to reach us—and the Tribe needs financial support now.
The link to use for direct donations can be found here. To donate by check, please send a check made out to “Seeding Justice” with “The Ambo Fund” in the Memo line, to: PO Box 12489, Portland, OR 97212.
The most important aspect of the MOU that established the Ambo Fund is:
The Ambo Fund may be used by the Klamath Tribes to streamline the process of giving to the Klamath Tribes and provide the Tribe with unrestricted dollars to do what they need to do, in real time, to ensure the health and safety of their tribal citizens and sacred foods. The funds may not be used for any purposes not allowed by law under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
When donors make an online donation to the Ambo Fund, they can cover the administrative 3% fee themselves, or they can opt to pass the fee to the Fund.
Yes, if you want to avoid fees you can donate by check – make your check out to “Seeding Justice” and be sure to write “The Ambo Fund” in the memo line and mail it to: Seeding Justice, P.O. Box 12489 Portland, OR 97212
If you are interested in donating stock gifts or mutual funds, please contact Dena Zaldúa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-289-1517, x2.
Indigenizing Philanthropy is the process of doing our work in the philanthropic sector in ways that respect and uphold Tribal sovereignty and centers Tribal people in solutions to the social and systemic challenges faced by Tribes and Tribal communities. Here’s our blog about the work we are leading across the northwest.
We’re not gonna lie—it helps to have Indigenous women leaders with strong organizing experience as a part of your organizational and board leadership. So, rather than treat the Tribe—a sovereign nation—as if it were any other grantee, we decided to approach Tribal leadership about setting up the Ambo Fund. At Seeding Justice we don’t aim to be around in perpetuity, we aim to be around as long as there is still a fight to achieve justice for our communities. To do that, we know we must partner with those who have been here since time immemorial.
Below are some resources to familiarize yourself with and learn more about what’s been happening in Southern Oregon with The Klamath Tribes:
- “Silent No More: Klamath Tribes gather to protect fish, homelands,” Herald and News, May 2021
- “Tensions rise in the Klamath Basin as feds further reduce water allotments to farmers,” The Counter, May 2021
- “Amid Historic Drought, a New Water War in the West,” The New York Times, June 2021
- “The West Can End the Water Wars Now,” The Atlantic, June 2021
- “Tensions Escalate in Klamath Falls as Southern Oregon Water Crisis Deepens,” The Oregonian, June 2021
- “Racism, drought and history: Young Native Americans fight back as water disappears,” The Los Angeles Times, June 2021
To donate by check, please send a check made out to “Seeding Justice” with “the Ambo Fund” in the Notes line, to: PO Box 12489, Portland, OR 97212