Richard Walker
Young people from the Puyallup Tribe and other Tribes participate in the opening ceremony of Boldt 40, February 5 at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Skookum Event Center. The day commemorated the 40th anniversary of the U.S. District Court decision in U.S. vs. Washington. The youth entered with the late Chief Dan George’s “Coast Salish Anthem,” then sang and drummed paddle songs from Puyallup, Squaxin, and Nisqually.

40 Years Later: Boldt Decision Celebrations With Some Caution

Richard Walker

In 1985, Canada and the United States signed the Pacific Salmon Treaty; through the Pacific Salmon Commission, both countries cooperate in the management, research and enhancement of Pacific salmon stocks.

In 1994, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie ruled that indigenous treaty signers had also reserved the right to harvest shellfish from any beds not “staked or cultivated by citizens,” meaning all public and private tidelands are subject to treaty harvest. “A treaty is not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them,” Rafeedie wrote in his decision.

In 1999, the state Legislature adopted the Forests & Fish Law, directing the state’s Forest Practices Board to adopt measures to protect Washington's native fish and aquatic species and ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act. The law affects 60,000 miles of streams flowing through 9.3 million acres of state and private forestland.

Twelve speakers were honored with Pendleton blankets for participating in panel discussions at Boldt 40, February 5 at the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Skookum Event Center. Three of them, from left, are Alan Stay, attorney for the Muckleshoot Tribe; Bill Wilkerson, former director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Nation. The day commemorated the 40th anniversary of the U.S. District Court decision in U.S. vs. Washington. (Richard Walker)

Gilbert Kinggeorge, Muckleshoot, said the victory in the Fish Wars “opened the door for everyone to participate in fighting for treaty rights.” He talked about some of the challenges, at one time seemingly insurmountable, that Native Nations have overcome recently in order to restore salmon habitat: The removal of several miles of dikes to restore the Nisqually River estuary; the removal of two dams on the Elwha River; the Muckleshoot Tribe’s purchase of 96,307 acres of forest through which the White River flows on its way to Puget Sound.

“There are many others,” Kinggeorge said, adding that battles are not over. Indeed, in 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that the state must remove hundreds of state highway culverts that block fish passage over the next 17 years. The state is appealing the decision.

“Tomorrow, there is going to be another battle. We’re going to win that one too,” Kinggeorge said.

Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, told young people in attendance to remember the stories they heard that day.

Frank stood on the stage with a crowd of Native children, held an eagle feather, and told of when his father was at boarding school. “He couldn’t speak his language, he couldn’t sing these songs. He couldn’t wave this eagle feather, he couldn’t pray. It was a bad time,” Frank said. “Now is a good time. We’re singing these songs and speaking our languages again.”

He continued, “Remember this day, this history. You are going to be the next generation to take the fight on. It never stops. Fight for your culture, fight for your way of life.”

Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp talked about the fire that was lit by those who have fought the battles.


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
This is the White way. To completely disregard the environment and the impact their greedy policies have on the earth, then to turn around and blame those least likely to defend themselves from the charges. The caveat is that NO ONE escapes the damage to the earth no matter who is to blame. While idiots continue to insist that global climate change is "just a theory" (in spite of the recent weather) people are dying because our infrastructure is in shambles and propane companies want to retain their profit margins. I think the Cree said it best: "When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money."