|Yurok fishers take salmon by drift net at the Klamath River's mouth|
But you may not know that the Klamath Salmon War was part of a larger struggle of Indigenous Northwest and California Native peoples to preserve their rights to fish for salmon as they had done for time immemorial. In the 1970s state fish and wildlife departments - supported by the federal government - moved to terminate and wipe out all vestiges of traditional Indigenous salmon fishing. At the time no one thought that the rag-tag groups of Native fishermen would prevail...including most of the fishermen themselves and their families. They had forgotten or had never known the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
The struggle over salmon fishing spawned hatred, violence and major federal court cases. The Indigenous Natives prevailed and the main resulting court decision - the Boldt Decision - has governed the allocation of salmon among Native, sport and commercial salmon fishers ever since. The Boldt Decision, for example, was the basis for the decision by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to allocate 50% of the allowable Klamath River salmon catch to the Yurok and Hoopa Tribes. Ironically, other Klamath River Indians who also depend on salmon - including Yurok members of the Resighini Rancheria and Karuk members of the Karuk Tribe and Quartz Valley Tribe - do not have government recognized fishing rights. These folks must still fish at night and risk prosecution to exercise their aboriginal right to fish for salmon in a traditional manner.
My guess is that most of those involved in Klamath River and Klamath Salmon issues these days do not know the history of the Boldt Decision. So KlamBlog offers the article below from the February 7, 1999 issue of the Seattle Times newspaper.
Those who understand history and its patterns have an advantage navigating the present. This is particularly true for those who are involved in political movements and social controversies. We have that now on the Klamath. While the political and social struggles still center on salmon, the antagonists now are those who seek to control Klamath River water and its management as well as those who own dams and those who seek to remove them.
Learn the history, it will help you find the right road today.