A Documentary by Barbara Bernstein

For thousands of years the north reach of the Willamette River, near its confluence with the Columbia, was a braided river of shallow channels and islands rich in biodiversity. That was until European settlers came to the Pacific Northwest and displaced the Indigenous people who had made this place their home since time immemorial. With industrial development, channels were filled, or dredged to create shipping lanes. Banks were hardened. Industries contaminated the water and land along the river, destroying salmon runs and reducing wildlife populations that had thrived alongside indigenous communities.

Today the area is designated an industrial sanctuary, but the communities that were displaced or damaged by this so-called sanctuary see it as an industrial sacrifice zone. Once a Braided River tells the story of the river before it was transformed into a Superfund Site and features community groups and activists working to replace the current Industrial Sanctuary with a green working waterfront defined by good jobs, clean energy, and healthy ecosystems. The documentary explores their vision to reclaim this stretch of river as a place where people and wildlife who depend upon the river for their homes, jobs and migration routes can thrive.

Listen to/download the audio of ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER

Read the Transcript

Once A Braided River premiered on Locus Focus on KBOO-FM 90.7 on October 24 at 10 am. It is being rebroadcast on January 2, 2023 at 10 AM on KBOO-FM 90.7 https://kboo.fm/media/113483-once-braided-river

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER (the video) is being screened Saturday, March 4 at 9 am at the 2023 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, at the University of Oregon, Erb Memorial Union (EMU) Redwood Auditorium, Room 214. The film screening will be followed by a panel with some of the people in the film: Bob Sallinger, Sarah Taylor and Michael Pouncil

Then at 10:45 am right after the screening, the next RUMBLE ON THE RIVER #5 will take place downstairs from the film screening in EMU Room 104. Panelists include Bob Sallinger (with Willamette Riverkeeper), Melanie Plaut MD (Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility), Elijah Cetas, Audrey Leonard (with Columbia Riverkeeper) and Nick Caleb (with the Breach Collective).

Banner art by Kandace Manning

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER was funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council and Stand up to Oil

Producer Barbara Bernstein is a musician, composer, performance artist and radio producer. Besides her recent documentary Once a Braided River, her award-winning radio documentaries, internationally broadcast on public radio stations, include two pieces about the struggle to stop the Pacific Northwest from becoming a fossil fuel export hub: Holding the Thin Green Line and Sacrifice ZonesFighting Goliath (the turbulent growth of tar sands development); Sculpted By Fire (the role of fire in shaping western forests and sustaining healthy forest ecosystems); Salmonlands (the cultural significance of diminishing salmon runs in the Northwest) and Rivers That Were (the industrialization of the Colorado and Columbia Rivers). You can hear more of her work here.