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Stories from the Heart of the Land
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An Interview w/ The Kitchen Sisters
  • Listen to "Cry Me a River: Ken Sleight and Katie Lee."
  • Read About "Cry Me a River: Mark Dubois."

    KITCHEN SISTERS
    The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva

    KATIE LEE
    Katie Lee at Glen Canyon in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Tad Nichols Collection/NAU-Cline Library.

    More images from Cry Me A River can be found in our "Nature is Homeground" and "Portraits in Landscapes" Photo Galleries...

    The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) produce the NPR series Hidden Kitchens, which explores how communities come together through food. As California residents, theyíve been "watching every year the encroachment and development of the west." In their two-part radio documentary "Cry Me a River," produced with Martha Ham, they visit the West we lost through the stories of three river guides who tryóand failóto stop the damming of their rivers.

    Ken and Katie Lee and Mark DuBois are such great characters. What drew you to them?

    Nikki Silva: I think for me, itís always trying to find a way of looking at the history of a movement and bring it to life in a way that helps people see that itís a building block situation, or that the environmental movement didnít spring out of nowhere, it isnít just hip because itís suddenly hip.

    Davia Nelson: You know, there are policy people and official environmentalists and then there are these eccentric individuals with great stories to tell who inspire. Itís almost like going back to the ancient tradition of the storyteller in the village. Storytelling is something as primal as food, as basic as dirt, and so to be part of a series called Stories from the Heart of the Land is wonderful. Itís like radio is our campfire.

    Is it true that Katie Lee wonít go back to the Grand Canyon?

    DN: Katie called me the other day high as a kiteóshe had just rafted Cataract Canyon, at eighty-eight years old, and she was just exhilarated. So she has stayed on rivers all her life. But Glen Canyon leads into the Grand Canyon, and because that river is dammed... It was a silty brown river, warm and sinuous, and now it is regulated, cold cold blue, completely transformed, and she feels like the river is so Disney-fied that she will not go on it. Itís as if sheís sanctioning it by going there, and she will not sanction that.

    She sounds like a great woman.

    DN: She is. And she is... She is not a nice girl. Katie Lee is NOT NICE. Sheís just straightforward. She wants that dam decommissioned and she wants Lake Powell drained and she wants to restore the Grand Canyon and she doesnít see why thatís not possible and neither does Ken Sleight and neither does Mark DuBois. To them thatís just as reasonable as anything

    Ken Sleight and Katie Lee are both in their eighties. Do you think they have hope that theyíll see the river again?

    DN: They are the most hope-filled people youíll ever meet in your life, absolutely. They just donít think for a second that this isnít going to happen. They put us to shame.

    Davia Nelson, who is herself an avid river rafter, spoke to us from the Kitchen Sistersí San Francisco office. Nikki Silva phoned in from her backyard overlooking Monterey Bay where, she says, "a Red-tail just flew by."

  • Listen to "Cry Me a River: Ken Sleight and Katie Lee."
  • Read About "Cry Me a River: Mark Dubois."

  • Production: Atlantic Public Media. Curated by Jay Allison and Emily Botein.
    Funding: Supported by The Nature Conservancy and Visa.

    The Nature ConservancyVisa


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