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After 70 years, the salmon are back!

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I wandered around the Three Mile Falls Dam salmon facility, took these photos, and finally ran into a human who said he worked for the Oregon State Fisheries department, and who was I again? I dropped a few names of people I’d interviewed on the Rez, but he said, he didn’t know the people in the Tribe. “They just rent us space here.” But he was kind enough to take 20 minutes and walk me through the facility, which includes sorting pools, video cameras that count the salmon as they come up the river and enter the ladders, sluices, and hatchery areas. When I asked him what their biggest challenge was, he said, “Water. The agricultural needs in this area are huge, but somehow, the Tribe got an agreement so more water would flow through the Umatilla, and after 70 years, the salmon are back! Not only that, but we had record runs of Steelhead and Spring Chinook.” And that’s where the sign comes in.

As quoted in my pap

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The fisheries policy exemplifies the Tribes’ approach of “cooperation over confrontation.” Antone Minthorn, Chairman of CTUIR’s Board of Trustees, or leader of the Tribes, said, “If we have to, we will litigate to protect our treaty-reserved rights, but we have seen that we can create solutions which meet everyone’s needs by sitting down with our neighbors, listening to each other, and developing our own solutions. … We believe the cooperative process between neighbors can be used as a model for success in the region and beyond” (Record, 2008).

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Non-academic me here again: I’ll be interviewing Antone Minthorn about this and I’m very excited to hear his vision for the Tribes’ governance style.

In the meantime, I’ve spent the last two days listening to their Youth Council, and to young adults helping mentor youth, and to elderly people. One of the things I learned was a Creation story that includes gifts animals gave when the first Human was being made. I won’t tell you the whole story, but the Salmon chose to give two gifts. And they were good gifts. The first one was its life, so humans could feed off salmon and live. The second gift was the Salmon’s Voice. But humans had to promise to speak on behalf of the Salmon and preserve it and the land and water in return.

In the Tamastslikt Cultural Center, there are many exhibits about the past, present, and future of the Tribes. One of them says that once the salmon returned to the Umatilla River, as the salmon thrived, so did the People. I’m wondering if Voice had something to do with it.

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