Treaty Rights at Risk

As sovereign nations, 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington signed treaties with the United States, ceding 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 available for us to harvest.

Today our fishing rights have been rendered almost meaningless because the federal and state governments are allowing salmon habitat to be damaged and destroyed faster than it can be restored. Salmon populations have declined sharply because of the loss of spawning and rearing habitat. Tribal harvest levels have been reduced to levels not seen since before the 1974 U.S. v. Washingtonruling that reaffirmed our treaty-reserved rights and status as co-managers with the right to half of the harvestable salmon returning to Washington waters.

As the salmon disappear, our tribal cultures, communities and economies are threatened as never before. Some tribes have lost even their most basic ceremonial and subsistence fisheries – the cornerstone of tribal life.


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