Kayeloni is an Indigenous woman from Spokane and Nez Perce Nations, growing up primarily in Idaho. Through her cultural ties, she was brought up with a strong connection to the many precious life sources including water, land and wildlife.
Prior to joining American Rivers in 2022, she served as the Communications Manager for the Nez Perce Tribe for five years. There she managed a majority of external and internal communications including media relations, public relations and acting as public information officer during emergencies. During that time, she was an integral part of the Salmon Orca Project, providing communications services as they related to the Lower Snake River and advocating for breaching of the four lower Snake River dams.
Education: BA- Business and Communications
Favorite River: Salmon River
River Story: I vividly recall catching my first salmon at the age of probably 11. As a child, one of my favorite events was traveling to the South Fork of the Salmon River in July, to go camping and salmon fishing with my family. As a young child, my dad started me out by having me reel in the salmon after he hooked them. At the age of 11, I felt I was ready to handle the full experience on my own.
As we sat near the edge of a cliff on a warm sunny day, we aimed to cast near a well-known fishing hole across the narrow river. My dad cautioned me that there was wire fencing against the rock, under the water and not to cast too hard or your hook would get snagged. Hoping to make a successful cast and not lose one of my dad’s hooks, I took caution while casting.
I cast twice and came back with nothing. On the third cast as I yanked the pole back after letting my hook drop, I felt tension. Fish on! I was extremely excited, as was my dad. He encouraged me to take my time and wear out the fish. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I was not making any progress with this fish, it wasn’t budging an inch no matter how hard I pulled. I told my dad, in a disappointed tone, that my hook was just snagged. He said to go ahead and break the line as there would be no way to salvage the hook. I pulled and yanked the pole and was unable to break the line. I decided to hold the pole under my arm and begin walking backwards in an attempt to break the line.
As I put all my weight into breaking the line, I was suddenly launched forward as an enormous salmon jumped straight out the water into the air. As the salmon descended back into the river, my dad jumped up simultaneously as if he and the salmon were on a pulley system. As the salmon went back into the river, my line broke and off the salmon went down stream.
While it would have been a trophy to bring home, my dad couldn’t be more proud. To this day he claims it to be the largest salmon he’s ever seen. While I did officially catch my first salmon shortly after that, my dad and I will forever treasure the story of the first salmon I lost