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 was screened Tuesday, September 12 at 7 pm at the St. Johns Twin Cinemas, 8704 N Lombard St in Portland to a sold out house and we had to turn away droves of people who wanted to see the film. We are hoping to do another screening at the theater in December and will announce details as soon as possible.

Once A Braided River premiered on Locus Focus on KBOO-FM 90.7 on October 24 at 10 am. It was rebroadcast on April 22 (Earth Day) at 10 AM on KBOO-FM 90.7 https://kboo.fm/media/113483-once-braided-river

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

The documentary then screened on June 21 at the Kenton Firehouse, 8105 N. Brandon. It will be showing again at St. Luke’s Church on November 1 and the Eastside Democratic Club on November 14. Watch this space for more details and more screening dates.

The next Rumble on the River #9 is happening on Thursday, November 26 at 6:00 PM at a location TBA. Rumble On The River community forums bring together exp1ert voices to explain the risks of having 90% of Oregon’s fuel stored within city limits at the Critical Energy Infrastructure Hub along the Willamette River. The focus of this forum will be false climate solutions.

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.