Indigenous civil rights documentary FISH WAR to premiere at SIFF

FISH WAR, a documentary film produced by Northwest Treaty Tribes Media and North Forty Productions, will have its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 11, with an additional matinee screening at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 12.

Both screenings will be at SIFF Cinema Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave N. SIFF members may purchase tickets April 17, and general ticket sales begin April 18.

The feature-length documentary highlights the violent struggle faced by Indigenous nations to exercise their treaty-protected right to harvest salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

“My father, 60 years ago, was still getting his head bashed in on the riverbanks,” says Nisqually Chairman Willie Frank III, son of treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr. “He was getting his head bashed in—in Olympia, right on the rocks where our state Capitol is, during a fishing protest to demonstrate what goes on along the river.

“Because the state of Washington—they didn’t want to tell people the truth.”

The protests led to a federal court case, U.S. v. Washington, that changed the way the state and treaty tribes care for the environment. Judge George Boldt’s decision in this case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

It should have put an end to the Fish Wars.

Fifty years later, however, tribal treaty rights are threatened by adversaries including habitat destruction and climate change, which threaten to destroy salmon runs forever.

“The Fish War isn’t over,” Frank says. “Instead of fighting over fish, we are fighting for the fish—to keep them on this planet.”