“Sacred Catch” series highlights tribal fishing rights

KUOW ran a series called Sacred Catch this week about treaty tribal fishing rights.

Before Salmon Was King, Before Salmon Was Greed focuses on Lummi Nation elder Ramona Morris:

The Salish Sea has long been fished by the Lummi tribe, which was once made up of nomadic fishing tribes that canoed the waters to harvest food from sea and land. The tribe is now based on a small reservation north of Bellingham, Wash.

Salmon is sacred to the Lummi. It’s their schelangen, or way of life.

“It was our food, just like many other animals and things,” Morris says. “They were placed here for our use.”

Before she was born, spawning salmon ran so thick they pushed each others’ bloated, battered bodies out of streams on their migration home.

Schelangen, But Also A Right features Lummi Council member Jay Julius:

“My great-grandfather was born in 1888, and I fished with him,” Julius says. “And you’ve been to Whatcom Falls. Today it’s a place to swim, jump off a cliff, but that was our village. That’s where my great-great-great-grandfather’s grandparents were at the signing of the treaty. That was our village, which runs down Whatcom Creek, and into the Puget Sound.”

The Fish Wars: Fighting As Northwest Salmon Run Dry describes the events that led up to the Boldt decision 40 years ago next month. NWIFC Chairman Billy Frank Jr. and Lummi Fisheries Commission Chairman Elden Hillaire are both quoted:

“I’ve seen the water quality in Bellingham Bay deteriorate, come back, and now it’s starting to deteriorate again,” Hillaire says.

A proposed international coal terminal also could threaten Lummi fishing waters.

“We’re always hopeful,” Hillaire says. “You know, the Great Spirit will guide each and every one of us toward a better life. I just hope it’s in this world.”

Hope came last week in the form of a bill, more than fifty years after tribal members started being convicted of felonies and misdemeanors for illegal fishing. The bill proposes to clear the names of eighty people who were arrested before 1975.