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Columbia River/Plateau: Salmon Reintroduction Case Study

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"You know, it's a really great feeling to have the freedom to go back on the river to fish, because that's our livelihood, the salmon."

David Sohappy (Yakama), 1989

American Indians have lived and fished along coastal and inland Northwest waters for thousands of years. In the 1850s, Indian Nations of the Pacific Northwest signed treaties with the United States government, ceding millions of acres of land. In exchange, the tribes retained reservation lands and the rights to fish and hunt in their " usual and accustomed places ", including places outside reservation boundaries.

Today, Native Nations of the Pacific Northwest are leaders in the protection and preservation of salmon. Examine these case studies and consider the actions Native Nations take to restore salmon and, in turn, strengthen their cultures.

 

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) is made up of four Native Nations: Yakama , Nez Perce , Umatilla , and Warm Springs. CRITFC works "to ensure a unified voice in the overall management of the fishery resources, and as managers, to protect reserved treaty rights through the exercise of the inherent sovereign powers of the tribes."

Member nations coordinate with state and federal agencies to ensure fair harvesting practices between tribal and nontribal fishers. A key component of their work is educating the general public and policy makers on salmon restoration, treaty fishing rights, and tribal culture.

Case Study Initiative: Lake Cle Elum Sockeye Salmon Reintroduction

Sockeye salmon were extinct in the Yakama Basin by the early 1900s due to river dams that blocked fish spawning migrations. The Yakama Nation negotiated an agreement to transplant adult sockeye; as a result, thousands of sockeye successfully spawned in the Yakama Basin, an achievement not seen in over 100 years.

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The Yakama River and its tributaries are home to Lake Cle Elum , a natural lake and reservoir.
Map produced by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC). Courtesy of Jeremy Five Crows.
The Yakama River and its tributaries are home to Lake Cle Elum , a natural lake and reservoir.
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"It's no secret that salmon is a sacred, spiritual food for the Yakama Nation."

Charles Strom (Yakama), NMAI Interview, August 2016
Native people and Nations continue to find ways to restore salmon so that their cultures can thrive.
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"We planted baby fish, they left, they started coming back in numbers. People could not believe it. This was for everybody. Tribal and nontribal people could fish in the Yakama River."

Carol Craig ( Yakama ), NMAI Interview, August 2016
Education and outreach are essential to building support for the Lake Cle Elum Sockeye Salmon Reintroduction. Carol Craig serves as a tribal information education coordinator with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Discussion Question
To what degree do you think education of non-Native communities plays a role in the Yakama Nation's Sockeye Reintroduction program?
sockeye salmon
Salmon require cool, uncontaminated water and gravel beds in shallow streams for spawning.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hagerty and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Salmon require cool, uncontaminated water and gravel beds in shallow streams for spawning.
Discussion Question
What kinds of resources and efforts do you think are required to yield the success of the Yakama Nation's Sockeye Reintroduction program?

"I feel proud to be part of the efforts of the Yakama Nation and fish restoration."

Charles Strom (Yakama), NMAI Interview, August 2016
Charles Strom is the manager of Cle Elum Hatchery and earned degrees in both aquatics and fisheries technology.
Discussion Question
Why might Charles Strom feel a sense of pride in the restoration of the sockeye?
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