Please join us on Saturday June 5 for a fun meeting to plan the activities of SEM for the year 2021-2022. This is a time when we brainstorm all of the possibilities for actions that address our mission. If you have ideas, or just want to help save our sacred earth from over heating, please plan to come. For the Zoom link, contact: email@example.com
SEM Mission: To celebrate the sacredness of all creation and to empower and mobilize our congregation and community to urgently respond to the climate crisis affecting all of life, building a just and sustainable world.
More About Treaty-Reserved Fishing Rights
Now regarded as a landmark decision in American Indian law, the 1974 Boldt decision affirmed the language in Washington’s Indian treaties. They provided for settlers and tribes which signed them an equal 50%/50% sharing of salmon which pass through their traditional fishing grounds. U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt also made treaty tribes co-managers of the state’s fisheries and ordered the state to limit fishing by non-Natives when necessary, for conservation purposes. When the state failed to do so, he placed the matter under federal supervision, and the Coast Guard confronted violators.
The Boldt and other court decisions infuriated commercial and sports fishermen, and they’ve continually ignored or violated them. In 1984 Washington voters approved an initiative, I-456, in every county and by a 53% to 47% margin statewide. It ended “special rights” for Indigenous people. It’s still in the RCW (Revised Code of Washington), but the state doesn’t enforce it since federal law pre-empts it.
Judge William Orrick ruled in 1980 that 1) Boldt’s decision applied to hatchery-bred fish as long as Natives played a role in the breeding process and 2) state and federal governments have a duty to protect salmon habitat since treaty rights are perpetual and fish must continually be available. In 1994 Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that tribes are entitled to half of the harvestable shellfish on Washington beaches. Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled in 2013 that failing culverts deny salmon access to habitat and important spawning grounds. He directed the state to fix all fish-blocking culverts in its roads by 2030.
The Upper Skagit and 19 other tribes in western Washington are “treaty tribes” which in 1975 created the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) which assists member tribes in their role as natural resources co-managers. Its chair for over 30 years was Billy Frank Jr who was arrested more than 50 times in the fish wars and sit-ins in the 1960s and 1970s. The Washington Legislature approved a bill (HB 1372) this year to replace Washington’s statue of Marcus Whitman in the national statutory hall collection in the U.S. Capital with a statue of Billy Frank Jr.
Two additional “salmon” bills approved in the House failed to get floor votes in the Senate:
- Treaty-Reserved Fishing Rights (HB 1172) – Requested by the Attorney General, it repeals I-456 provision in RCW, recognizes judicially affirmed and treaty-reserved fishing rights, and promotes state-tribal cooperative agreements in managing salmon, trout, and steelhead resources.
- Salmon Recovery & Growth Management Act (HB 1117) – It adds salmon recovery to the goals of the state GMA and directs cities and counties to include recovery strategies in their comprehensive plan updates; stipulates they must achieve a “net ecological gain” of salmon habitat and eliminate fish passage barriers on local roads.
Protecting salmon is a partisan issue, and only two Republicans supported HB 1117 in the House. The Senate is more sharply divided, and there apparently weren’t enough Democrats to support it. It’s the third year Rep. Lekanoff’s bill failed to pass. Bottomline, there’s still significant opposition to treaty-reserved fishing rights in Washington, and we’re dependent on the federal government and courts to enforce them. That opposition often carries over to co-managing salmon habitat and breaching dams.
Further information on treaty-reserved fishing rights can be found in this NWIFC publication: https://nwifc.org/w/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2014/10/understanding-treaty-rights-final.pdf
The Earth is Sacred – Not Ours to Wreck