Washington State Catholic Conference/YouTube
Religious leaders depict the history and cultural importance of the Columbia River.

Video: Northwest Religious Leaders’ Full Columbia River Treaty Letter


It is short and to the point, but it’s the signatories who pack the punch: a Rabbi, along with leaders of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal and Lutheran churches in both Canada and the U.S., and tribes from both sides of the border.

Together they wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama last month asking for renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, calling it part of a necessary “moral framework” for river management and respect of tribal rights.

RELATED: ‘Modernize the Columbia River Treaty,’ Religious Leaders Urge U.S. and Canada

“The bishops of the Northwest and also British Columbia have a collective vision for our responsibility and stewardship of the river, which we hope will be helpful not only to the Catholic community but for everyone who lives in this watershed,” says Bishop William S. Skylstad, Diocese of Spokane, Washington, in the video below.

The 1,200-mile-long river, with its 260,000-square-mile watershed, is essential, the voiceover says. “Its life-giving waters bestow beauty and abundance in all directions.”

Below is the text of the pastoral letter to the two chief executives, followed by the compelling video, depicting the river’s history, its significance and the commonalities that draw Indigenous Peoples and religious leaders together to fight for its future.


September 23, 2014

Dear Prime Minister Harper and President Obama:

As leaders of religious communities and indigenous people of the Columbia River Basin, we are providing you with the Declaration on Ethics & Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

The Columbia River Pastoral Letter by the Roman Catholic Bishops of the international watershed sets forth a moral framework for decision-making for the river and the human communities that depend on the river. Using this framework, Gonzaga University in Spokane hosted a conference on May 13, Ethics & the Columbia River Treaty: Righting Historic Wrongs. From this conference issued the enclosed Declaration. The Columbia Basin tribes believe that this Declaration is consistent with the spirit and intent of the U.S. Entity Regional Recommendation on the Future of the Columbia River Treaty after 2024.

We ask that you support and actively implement this Declaration to modernize the Columbia River Treaty so as to promote the common good through stewardship and justice, while advancing respectful dialogue and an international water ethic.


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