Learn more about the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative

We are losing the battle for salmon recovery in western Washington because salmon habitat is being damaged and destroyed faster than it can be restored. Despite massive cuts in harvest, careful use of hatcheries and a huge financial investment in restoration during the past four decades, salmon continue to decline along with their habitat. This trend shows no signs of improvement. As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights.

That’s why we started the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative in July 2011. We began with development of a white paper outlining the issues and offering solutions for the protection of tribal treaty rights and recovery of salmon habitat. Then we took our concerns to Washington, D.C. and met with the White House.

Download Treaty Rights at Risk, a report from the Treaty Indians Tribes in western Washington.

We are asking the federal government to align its agencies and programs and lead a more coordinated salmon recovery effort. We want the United States to take charge of salmon recovery because it has the obligation and authority to ensure both salmon recovery and protection of tribal treaty rights. In failing to protect salmon habitat, the federal government is failing in its trust responsibility to honor its treaties with the tribes. This path leads to the extinction of both the salmon resource and our treaty-reserved rights.

Follow-up meetings with federal leadership have been encouraging. Focus is being placed on the need for increased enforcement of existing habitat protection laws, protecting instream flows for salmon, and ensuring that federal programs are helping to meet salmon recovery needs and goals.

As sovereign nations, the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington signed treaties with the United States in 1855-56, giving up most of the land that is now western Washington, but reserving our rights to harvest salmon and other natural resources. For those rights to have meaning there must be salmon to harvest. If salmon are to survive, and if our treaty rights are to be honored, there must be real gains in habitat protection and restoration. Habitat is the key to salmon recovery, protection of our treaty rights and ensuring that salmon will be there for future generations.

Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, talks about how the decline of salmon and salmon habitat are putting the tribes’ treaty rights at risk:

3 Responses to Learn more about the Treaty Rights at Risk initiative

  1. Vince Mulcahy says:

    Excellent job continuing your dedication and passion for doing the right thing! Preservation of our natural resources is paramount to maintain our culture and heritage. Although I am not a member of a Washington tribe, I am a member of an Alaskan tribe. We share many of the same problems with our natural resources and socialeconomic issues. I grew up fishing and hunting on the Yukon and Kuskokwim delta as a way of life. My young adult life was commercial fishing around Kodiak Island, South Central Alaska and the Bering Sea. I have lived in Washington State for the last 25 years and have seen and experienced the corporate way of life. It has been a great experience, but it is not me. I am proud to be a Native AmericanIndian and worry about our future. We can continue to borrow and print more dollar bills, but we can’t buy natural resources. When they are gone, we are gone and history won’t matter. -Vince

  2. Steve Dow says:

    I learned 30 years ago that the tribes were the best partner we could have to restore these endangered salmon. I hope very much they will be able to get the government to listen.
    I know what we are doing to restore the habitat. It is a massive effort, but if you think about how fast the population is growing, it is not enough. We must do more. I am working on my own project to bring this to the forefront. Just a small effort. I wrote a letter awhile back disagreeing with Billy Frank. I was naive.

    After much study and thought, he is right on the mark. We know what we need to do and we know how. We have everything in place to make it happen. We just need the public and political will to do it.
    People need to understand that humans need the same thing as the salmon. If we can’t save the salmon, maybe next we will be struggling to save the humans.

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