Tribes discuss salmon, Fish Wars with university students

Puyallup tribal member Nancy Shippentower, center, was a child during the Fish Wars.

Nancy Shippentower of the Puyallup Tribe remembers the years leading up to the landmark Boldt decision in U.S. v. Washington 50 years ago, when tribal leaders and activists from throughout the Northwest gathered in her family’s home.

Her mother, Janet McCloud, was one of the matriarchs defending treaty fishing rights along the rivers in western Washington through the Fish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s. Her father, Don McCloud, was arrested alongside Billy Frank Jr. during those decades.

“I’m a child of the movement,” said Shippentower, now a respected elder in her own right, during a panel discussion at Western Washington University in May.

Her father taught her the value of salmon, as a source of physical, social and cultural sustenance. “They are to be honored,” she said.

University students filled an amphitheater classroom to hear from Shippentower and members of the Lummi, Swinomish and Upper Skagit tribes for the panel—The Boldt Decision at 50: Looking Back and Planning Forward.

Federal Judge George Boldt affirmed tribes’ treaty fishing rights in 1974, established 50-50 sharing between tribal and state harvesters, and recognized treaty tribes as co-managers of the resource.

Despite the positive outcomes of the Boldt decision, salmon today face threats including migrations through warming and polluted waters, and tribes are fighting an uphill battle to prevent some populations from going extinct.

“You want to help our salmon? Get a degree in the natural sciences and come work for our people,” said Jeremy “JJ” Wilbur, a senator of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

At right are additional comments from the panel discussion, which was moderated by student Raven Borsey, a member of Lummi.


Above: Scott Schuyler of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe responds to a question posed to the panelists; (right to left) Nancy Shippentower of Puyallup, Jeremy “JJ” Wilbur of Swinomish, and Tim Ballew Sr., Ellie Kinley and Jay Julius of Lummi. Below: Lummi Nation member and Western Washington University student Raven Borsey moderates the panel in front of his peers. Photos and story by Kimberly Cauvel.