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also available: eBook
category: Nature
published: Jun 2024
publisher: RMB | Rocky Mountain Books

A River Captured

The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change - Revised and Updated

by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes

tagged: rivers, environmental conservation & protection, natural resources

A River Captured explores the controversial history of the Columbia River Treaty and its impact on the ecosystems, Indigenous peoples, contemporary culture, cross-border politics and recent history of the Pacific Northwest.


The Columbia River Basin is a vast region in North America, primarily located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and parts of Canada. It covers portions of seven U.S. states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah, as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. The basin is defined by the watershed of the Columbia River and its tributaries, making it one of the largest river basins in North America.

Long lauded as a model of international co-operation, the Columbia River Treaty governs the storage and management of the waters of the upper Columbia River basin, a region rich in water resources and with a natural geography well suited to hydroelectric megaprojects. The Treaty also displaced more than 2,000 residents of over a dozen communities, flooded and destroyed archaeological sites, and upended once-healthy fisheries.

Paying special attention to First Nations history, ecology, economics, politics, and Canada–US relations, this investigative work weaves from the present day to the past and back again in an engaging and unflinching examination of how and why Canada decided to sell water storage rights to American interests.

With one of the Treaty’s provisions set to change in 2024 and termination of the treaty requiring a 10-year notice period, this updated edition of A River Captured looks at the destructive mistakes of our collective past in order to save us from an even more difficult future

About the Author
Eileen Delehanty Pearkes explores landscape and the human imagination, with a focus on the history of the upper Columbia River and its tributaries. Born in the United States, educated at Stanford University (BA English) and the University of British Columbia (MA English), her work resists nationality and insists on truth. Popular online columns on the western Canadian landscape stress the need for reconciliation of people with land. She has spent over two decades working alongside the Sinixt to bring awareness to their story. In 2014 she curated an extensive exhibit on the history of the Upper Columbia River system in Canada for Touchstones Nelson museum and the Columbia Basin Trust. It details dramatic ecological and social changes in British Columbia, both before and after the Columbia River Treaty (1961–64), and won an award of excellence from the Canadian Museum Association. Eileen has published two books with RMB: The Geography of Memory: Reclaiming the Cultural, Natural, and Spiritual History of the Snayackstx (Sinixt) First People and A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change. A dual citizen, Eileen divides her time between California and Nelson, British Columbia.

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