Indigenous Russian Fisheries Managers Visit Oregon and WashingtonNews & Program Updates
On April 23-May 3, the Wild Salmon Center hosted six indigenous Russian fisheries managers and political leaders from Sakhalin and Kamchatka and one representative of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center in Oregon and Washington. With the valuable organizational aid of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, WSC organized and facilitated meetings between the delegation and members of the Warm Springs, Nez Perce, Yakama, Nisqually, Hoh and Tulalip tribes. The exchange focused on sharing experiences regarding fishing rights history, effective means of tribal negotiation with government, fishing practices and management, and hatchery management. The Trust for Mutual Understanding provided funding for this event.
The formal portion of the exchange began on April 25, with a meeting at the Wild Salmon Center with Paula Burgess of WSC and Craig Jacobson and Elizabeth Woody of Ecotrust. A general introduction to the history of tribal fisheries, WSC’s North American program and Oregon salmon politics was provided. A meeting was then convened at CRITFC with the attendance of several CRITFC staff, including Director Olney Patt Jr. Concepts such as the distinction between treaty and non-treaty tribes, ceded territory, the 1974 Bolt decision, and "usual and accustomed" fishing places were discussed. Recent developments concerning the Columbia Basin Partnership were also covered.
On April 28, John Matthews and Les Brown of CRITFC led a trip to the Columbia River basin, where the delegation toured the East White Salmon Processing Plant, a tribal project that is still in its development phase. The group also visited two of 28 tribal fishing sites along the Columbia River that are funded by the US Corps of Engineers as compensation for the flooding of the historic Celilo Falls by the Dalles Dam. The group also visited the former site of the Falls and Celilo village.
After a cultural day spent on the Yakama Reservation, the group spent the morning of April 30 at the Yakama Cle Elum hatchery, learning about conservation-minded hatchery management. The hatchery tour was followed by a meeting at the Nisqually River Wildlife Refuge with Georgianna Kautz, natural resources manager of the Nisqually tribe. Georgianna spoke of the partnerships that her tribe has forged with unlikely bedfellows, including the Ft. Lewis Military Base (within which the Nisqually operates a hatchery).
A very successful meeting was held with the Hoh tribe on May 1 with the participation of WSC’s Devona Ensmenger. Mary Leika, Hoh Tribal Chairwoman, prepared a feast replete with a spring Chinook salmon, which was followed by a tribal dance performance. The group also toured the historic Hoh village located at the mouth of the Hoh river, as well as the Department of Transportation large wood restoration project upstream of the reservation. The evening ended with a discussion of the different problems existing among the Russian and Hoh tribes.
The exchange ended with a May 2 meeting with the Tulalip tribe north of Seattle. Terry Williams, Mike Crewson and Kit Rawson of Tulalip Fisheries described restoration efforts in the Puget Sound, plans for a new fisheries office including a fish processing plant and a genetics laboratory, and the quota determination process.
Upon conclusion of the exchange, the group discussed future steps to be taken as a part of the SSI indigenous exchange effort. Interest in a future exchange with Canada was expressed, as Canadian tribes do not have treaty rights with the government, and their situation is therefore more similar to that of Russian tribes. The group also expressed support for a future research project that would compile the stories of native peoples of the US, Canada, Russia, Japan and China and their efforts to claim rights to natural resources.