Uprivers is a documentary about two watersheds and the communities that depend on them in the face of a mining boom presently underway in British Columbia. It is the stories of two rivers; a wild river that has been deeply wounded, and another river, as yet untouched, but at risk of the same fate. These two stories are one story, a story woven together with threads of salmon, community, watershed, tradition and resistance against degradation and disunity.
The Mount Polley tailings dam breach in August of 2014 was the largest environmental disaster in the history of Canada by volume, having released 530,000 cubic feet of toxic mine sludge and tailings water into Polley Lake and ultimately down the Fraser River, one of Canada’s wild salmon powerhouses. The toxins released by the dam breach continue to disrupt and threaten salmon habitat and the communities that depend on them. Williams Lake is one such community, where Jacinda Mack, activist and advocate for her community and others like it across the Pacific Northwest, shares her people’ s story of resilience and resistance in the face of disaster.
Ketchikan, Alaska is a remote fishing town bordering the Misty Fjords National Monument, a pristine 2 million acre wilderness that supports thriving fisheries and traditional uses. But across the imaginary line which separates the U.S. from Canada, at the headwaters of the Unuk River, two of the worlds largest mountain-top-removal mines, KSM and Brucejack, are being developed by the same industry that developed and managed the Mt. Polley Mine. Here, Tlingit activist Carrie James works to prevent history from repeating itself on the Unuk.
The team at Uprivers believes that change doesn’t just happen when people watch the finished film but every step along the way. These issues and this film have been a catalyst for new relationships, community building and resistance, and we have been privileged to be a part of that process.
Through our work we are supporting the Moccasin Footprint Society, a community effort to recognize First Nation land use and lifestyles, past, present and future, in the Williams Lake area. In Ketchikan an intertribal dance group performed for the film, and they are also receiving the professional quality footage for their own promotional use, without restrictions. Alaska Native elders and activists were flown out to the site of the developing KSM mine for Uprivers, developing and informing their continued resistance.
We are committed to creating positive change at every stage of production through resource sharing and relationship building.
We are making follow up trips to Ketchikan in early July and Williams Lake in late summer for their respective subsistence fishing seasons. Salmon are the threads that unite these watersheds and cultures. They are also litmus test for health, where salmon stocks are abundant, rivers are healthy; when the salmon decline, we know something is wrong with the river.
Documenting the salmon runs and the lifestyles that depend on them will wrap up production, with our full attention shifting to editing, building relationships and strategizing for distribution.