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

Once A Braided River premiered on Locus Focus on KBOO-FM 90.7 on October 24, 2022. It was rebroadcast on April 22 (Earth Day) 2023 on KBOO-FM 90.7 https://kboo.fm/media/113483-once-braided-river

Read the Transcript

Upcoming Screenings:

The next Once a Braided River screening will take place in Astoria, OR, on May 31 at 7 pm at the Columbian Theater, 1102 Marine Drive. This screening is sponsored by the North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection.

ONCE A BRAIDED RIVER (the video) premiered in Portland at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Avenue, Tuesday, May 16 at 7 pm to a packed house and enthusiastic audience.

The event was co-sponsored by the Braided River Campaign, Columbia Riverkeeper, Willamette Riverkeeper, KBOO Community Radio, 350PDX and Oregon PSR

Since then he documentary has screened at the Kenton Firehouse in North Portland, the Wy’east Unitarian Universalist Congregation at The Center for Positive Aging in the Hollywood Neighborhood of Portland, St. Luke Church in SW Portland, the Eastside Democratic Club in East Portland. It played to two sold out houses at the St. Johns Twin Cinema in the St. Johns district of Portland. Other screenings include Bridge Meadows, Multigenerational Housing Community in Portland and Brian Doyle Auditorium on the University of Portland’s campus in Dundon-Berchtold Hall

RUMBLE ON THE RIVER Community Forum #15 –The Transportation Episode

Thursday, May 2nd   Doors & Info Tables 5:30 PM  Panel 6:30
St Andrew Catholic Church
806 NE Alberta St.
Portland 97211 

Topics will include transit equity, accessibility, reliability; climate impacts; freeway expansion; biking; walking; carpools; safety; funding and effective models elsewhere.

A Moderated Conversation with:
Abby Griffith: OPAL/Bus Riders Unite! Coordinator
Jonathan Maus: BikePortland Founder, Publisher & Editor
Indi Namkoong: Verde Transportation Justice
Khanh Pham: Oregon State Representative 
Chris Smith: No More Freeways Co-founder, Transportation Advocate

Since late 2022, Rumble On The River has presented fourteen free community forums in neighborhoods throughout Portland. Topics have included urban forestry, shade equity, Columbia & Willamette River ecosystems, false climate solutions to climate disruption and salmon restoration. The central Rumble focus has been on the Critical Energy Infrastructure (CEI) Hub. Rumbles bring together expert voices to lay out the potential hazards of having 90% of Oregon’s fuel and a mix of toxics stored within Portland’s city limits on a seismic liquefaction zone. 

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

Banner art by Kandace Manning

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.