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