Starting last Monday, August 17th, Anna Mae Leonard started a grueling 5 day
fast without water or food in front of Cascade Locks City Hall to protest the city’s plan to sell public water to Nestlé for a proposed water bottling facility. Leonard is a Cascade Locks resident and her tribal ancestors have been fishing on the Columbia for hundreds of years. She represents the Unchee Wana Fisher People Against Nestlé: a group of tribal fishing people who strongly oppose Nestlé’s intent to bottle Oxbow Spring water – the spring is a culturally significant and sacred site to tribal members in the Columbia River Gorge. Leonard along with hundreds of Native Americans in the Gorge think the water rights swap is a violation of the 1855 Treaty.
On Wednesday this week dozens of Native American fisher people and Gorge residents joined Leonard in an evening of solidarity. Local opposition to Nestlé’s water grab is mounting in the face of drought conditions, rampant wildfires, and a clear need to protect public water for people and wildlife, not to sell off to private corporations who intend to make this precious resource into a commodity. Leonard has told the press that she and many tribal members are fed up with the lack of action from top leaders in the state like Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Leonard’s powerful fasting protest ends today, but throughout the week she has been visited by supporters from the Gorge and has received positive feedback from the locals and tourists passing her by on Wa Na Pa Avenue with thumbs ups, waves, and affirmative honking of car horns. Leonard has expressed surprise (as heard on KPAM’s Mark and Dave Show August 20, 14 minute mark) at all the support she has been receiving.
After learning about the water bottling proposal only a few months ago she started asking around to see if other native fisher people had heard about the proposal and if they were doing anything to stop it. She found out that most had no idea Nestle intended to bottled Oxbow Springs and those that did know thought there was nothing they could do about it. One thing they all had in common was strong opposition to the city of Cascade Locks obtaining rights to Oxbow Spring water so they can sell it off to Nestlé.
Ever since Leonard found out that Warm Springs tribal leadership had submitted a letter to Governor Brown expressing opposition to the state’s role in making Oxbow Springs water available to Nestlé she’s been using it as a rallying tool. She has gathered hundreds of signatures from native fisher people calling on the governor and state agencies to stop the water rights transfer deal that would let Nestle open up shop in the Gorge. To ramp up support of her efforts she decided to perform a 5-day spiritual fast in full view of Cascade Locks city leaders, to both pressure them to do the right thing and to raise awareness to her people and the world that sacred water resources should not be for sale.
Leonard told the Oregonian reporter: “I want the [Cascade Locks city] council to think about what a world would be like without water…I want them to look at me suffer and think about how the fish will suffer without that cold spring water.” Lets honor her suffering by keeping up the fight to protect the Gorge and this sacred water from Nestlé.
If you are a Cascade Locks resident you can call your city council here: 541-374-8484. If you want to express your support of city council member Deana Busdieker’s opposition to Nestlé please email her.
To contact the Governor to express your concern about her lack of action to protect this public water from Nestlé, please call or email her at 503-378-4582 or on her share your opinion page.
You can keep close track of this issue by joining the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge Facebook group.
You can check out all the press Anna Mae Leonard’s protest has received by clicking on our “In The Press” tab.