Remove Dam Flooding Sacred Indigenous Cultural Site

Target: Seattle City Light CEO, Debra Smith

Goal: Drop renewal plans for Gorge Dam on Skagit River.

Construction on the Gorge Dam, located on the Skagit River in Washington State, began in 1921. The site was chosen without consulting with the regions indigenous inhabitants and the dam ultimately built in an area considered sacred by the Upper Skagit Tribe, a place called “The Valley of the Spirits.”

In the years since, the dam has resulted in dewatering in much of a three-mile stretch located within The Valley of the Spirits. This has been painful for the Upper Skagit, who have experienced five generations without “the sounds of the river singing,” according to Tribal Elder, Scott Schuyler. Schuyler also told Crosscut the site plays an important role in their culture’s stories of how life begins, saying “I can’t explain the emotions of seeing this historic wrong, and the hurt.” The Upper Skagit also believe the dam has been a significant driver of the decline in the region’s fish populations. Significant drops have been seen with chinook salmon, bull trout, and steelhead because of the dam, which blocks fish from reaching their historic habitat.

The Skagit Hydroelectric Project, operated by Seattle City Light and consisting of three dams – including the Gorge Dam – needs to renew its federal license to operate. This has provided the opportunity for an indigenous-led action against the dam. The Upper Skagit Tribe is joined by the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe in calling for the dam’s removal. The Sauk-Suiattle have also recently filed a lawsuit against Seattle City Light to improve conditions for fish at the dam.

Because of their federally reserved treaty rights, the Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, and Swinomish Tribes share management of the Skagit River with the state of Washington and must be consulted about the project’s re-licensing process. Their consent to continue the project is not required, however. The tribes cannot even insist a study be completed without the permission of Seattle City Light, who has denied previous requests for a dam removal assessment.

Sign below to demand the Seattle City Light CEO drop all plans to renew the Gorge Dam license and stop flooding a sacred indigenous cultural site.


Dear Debra Smith,

For 100 years, the Gorge Dam has been flooding a sacred site for the Upper Skagit people and driving a significant decline of fish populations in the Skagit River. During its inception, little respect or consideration was given to what harms the Skagit Hydroelectric Project would inflict upon the Coast Salish tribes of the region. The current process your company is undertaking to renew the federal licenses necessary to operate the project’s dams is an opportunity to right those wrongs.

Please do everything in your power to drop Seattle City Light’s efforts to renew its Gorge Dam permits, ending the destruction of the Upper Skagit’s sacred cultural site and significantly aiding in efforts to restore Washington’s ailing fish populations.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: J Brew

One Comment

  1. Evan Jane Kriss says:

    START respecting the sacred sites of our Native Americans! We have taken so much from them with little if any thought as to how this would affect their lives, their sacred traditions and their environment.

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