- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - David Harrelson banged a drum Saturday afternoon alongside the trickling Lamprey Creek in a blessing ceremony honoring the creek and the fish it will forever be named after.

“There is an obligation between people and fish. In order to fulfill the obligation, we have to know these animals and find a place for them in our society,” Harrelson, a tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, said following the blessing. “This naming ceremony is immensely important, and so is respecting place and one’s ancestors. I value this a great deal.”

The 3-mile-long tributary of Oak Creek had no official name until last August, when it was christened Lamprey Creek by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names at the request of a group of local residents. On Saturday, the celebration - known as the Lamprey Creek Awakening - called attention to the Pacific lamprey, an eel-like migratory fish that was an important food source for Native Americans in the Northwest.

The ceremony at the closed Fire Station No. 5 also honored the researchers dedicated to restoring local lamprey, which is now in steep decline throughout the region, reports the Corvallis Gazette-Times (https://bit.ly/1Tr7bzT).

“Today is a marvelous day,” said Carl Schreck, professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University. “We’re honoring a fish with the name. But I think more importantly, we’re recognizing forever that these animals are an important part of our environmental ecosystem. It elevates our ecological consciousness and recognizing how important it is to preserve every cog in the wheel to have our ecological machine working.”

In addition to the ecological impact, Ward 8 City Councilor Frank Hann said the naming of Lamprey Creek provided a connection to the area’s past, present and future, and honored the “powerful impact culturally, spiritually and nutritionally for those who lived here for thousands of years.”

“(The lamprey) is the oldest fish to inhabit our city,” Hann said. “We’re very grateful for Lamprey Creek. And we’re grateful there are so many people in the area who care enough to protect it.”

Hann noted that the naming should also provide a significant help to the community’s safety.

“We had an accident (in the creek) recently,” Hann said. “Without a name, without a location on a map, it was difficult for the police and fire department to respond to the person in distress.”

Saturday’s ceremony also featured educational displays and demonstrations about Pacific lamprey at the Walnut Community Room, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State University and local nonprofits.

“I’m honored to be here today to dedicate this creek,” said David Close, Oregon State University fisheries biologist and member of the Cayuse Nation. “All of the work the university has done here has been outstanding.”

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Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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