News From Native California Volume 31, Issue 3 - Page 47

Bear River in Danger By Clyde Prout Growing up, I didn’t have a concept of what home was or what it really meant. I remember when I was young my grandmother (koto), Lola (Gilbert) Prout, did an article with the Colfax Record (a small local newspaper) about “coming home.” At the time, I didn’t understand what she meant. We had a house and a television, but it wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand what she truly meant by “home.” In recent times, and with many of my older family and elders gone, I have felt a need to continue fighting to protect our history, culture, and traditions. Currently there is a pro- posed dam project, the Centennial Dam, that threatens one of our last remaining cultural territories. The proposed dam would sit on what is currently the Bear River, which is rich with the culture of the Nisenan Maidu. My family today descends from the surviving Nisenan fami- lies of Colfax. Prout is a pioneering family name in the City of Colfax. My family for generations has strived and lived in Colfax, with my great-great-grandmother Jane Prout listing her father, grandfather, and uncles as headmen in various vil- lages in the Colfax area. Some of these sites were listed on or near the Bear River. For generations we have used the Bear River for our ceremonies, gathering sites, educational opportunities, and other cultural purposes. If the dam were to be built, it would wipe away so much of what little we have left. So much of our culture was wiped away through the Gold Rush, the Indian boarding schools, historical trauma, and the loss of our elders. When I heard of the dam proposal and what could hap- pen, a huge part of me felt like someone was invading and taking my home; it was like someone was telling me I can’t go home. It was in that moment that what my grandmother said about home made sense. It wasn’t just a physical house that made you feel home, but a place, an area, a territory that has been part of your life and your family history for generations. The Bear River is very much my home, as well as my ancestors who came before me and the generations that will come after. My family continues to practice our tradi- tions here and will continue to do so. We will also do what we must to protect what little we have left. The one thing I love about my family is that we are resilient, and one thing the Nisenan know how to do is survive. Photos courtesy of Clyde Prout. SPR IN G 2 018 ▼ 45