Where are Fish? Don’t Pick on Indians, says Tulalip Official

Dear Sir:
I cannot let the articles in your esteemed paper – written by Enos Bradner of your staff – go by without making a feeble effort to answer some of his statements. His subject: "Indians’ Fishing Rights Rated Factor in Steelhead Decline" and bless his heart for fomenting ill feeling against us Indians, for heaven knows, many white people despise us because we are Indians. And we note with interest, his careful tiptoeing around Big Business, and his slanting of all the blame unto us Indians. With reference to the first article (March 19), the figures on salmon caught by Indians are meticulously presented. No mention is made of the catch of the Superior White Man – both offshore and on the high seas. Then these works "for many years there has been constant conflict between the Indians and the State Game and Fisheries Departments" . . . "that the Indians do not operate under state conservation regulations – and that they sell their steelhead."

THE Tulalip Indians (I belong to this group) have tried to go along on conservation. And for the record, my tribe, the Snohomish, owned this area, approximately what is now Snohomish County and the southern half of Whidbey Island (over 1,500,000 acres). My forefathers used to fish the Snohomish and Skykomish rivers, as well as other smaller rivers. They used to fish all around the southern half of Whidbey from Coupville and Keystone, on Admiralty Inlet, to Edmonds, and to near Stanwood, as well as the areas on our reservation that the Tulalips fish today. We have tried to stay within the boundaries of our reservation. But I am here and now serving notice that as long as we are being accused of ruining the salmon runs – which is a pure and outright fabrication of some people who have to find a whipping boy – I am here and now serving notice, that if I can get my fishing boat to operate, my boat is going all around Whidbey Island to fish, in our "old and accustomed fishing grounds." Also for the record: We never signed a treaty with any person, country, state or power to sell Puget Sound! Our treaty specifically states: "Article 1. the said tribe and bands of Indians hereby cede, relinquish, and convey to the United States all their right, title, and interest in and to the lands and country occupied by them."
No mention is made of "Whulge," or Puget Sound!

IF and when the power-that-be, in tolerance and good faith, recognize that the Indian is only one (and definitely, the "least of there") of five "factors," contributing to the depletion of the salmon runs, and attack the other four factors with the same vigor they attack Indian, then we, the Indians, will strive to follow implicitly the conservation plans of this state. The other element mentioned: "that the Indians sell their steelhead." The white man’s picture of the Indian has been that he lives in everlasting glory, living off a rich land, with money being poured upon him from a benevolent government. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many Indians are homeless, many are landless, and many are half hungry all the time. I invite you to visit, with me, some Indian homes. You would be appalled at the poverty. On the article of March 22, "Steelheading Main Business of Lummis" . . . "about 600 Indians live on the reservation" . . . "The catch of steelhead by the Lummis for the past ten years has averaged 1,446 annually." Believe it or not, this averages about 2.5 steelhead for each Indian, while the superior white man is allowed 24 steelhead per year! Then these words: "State Fisheries Department figures for 1959 – the latest available – cite 16,275 steelhead caught by Indians with nets in ten rivers on reservations. The State Game Department reported the sports catch – all by hook and line from the same rivers was 19,855 steelhead. Is 16,000 more than 19,000?

THEN This Gem – "The total 1959 sports catch, from 86 rivers, was 126,530." (Is this a misprint?) "In the three Olympic Peninsula rivers, the Quillayute, Queets, and Quinault, which are subjected to the most intensive Indian fishing, the Indian take of steelhead was 6,066 – while the sports catch was 1,788." (Oh, you poor, dear, cheated white sportsmen!) Do you know why the white sportsmen caught so few steelhead in these rivers? Because these rivers Quilayute, Queets and Quinault – are far from the center (Seattle – Spokane of white density of population. Give the whites time. They’ll be swarming over that area in no time!

Just remember that number – 126,530 steelhead caught by whites in 1959 in Washington state. On the article of March 23, "Five Factors Contribute to Decline of Steelhead Runs": "Migratory fish of Washington are a declining resource . . . Salmon runs are virtually at an all-time low." In this same paragraph Mr. Bradner casually lists four factors contributing to the decline of migratory fish. But in a separate paragraph, and given great length, the fifth factor – "unrestricted fishing by Indians."

These are the five factors, as listed by Mr. Bradner:

  1. "The deforestation of watersheds thru extensive logging operations which harms the spawning beds."
    Read those words again!
  2. "Pollution. . .the increase of pollution in the state’s rivers."
    Mr. Bradner could have included the entire Puget Sound in the polluted area.
  3. "Construction of High Dams" . . . "Third is the harm resulting of high dams – such as Grand Coulee, which block the runs of spawning fish."
    We Indians have always maintained that these huge dams were doing more damage to the salmon runs than ever could be counted or realized.
  4. "Fourth is the catching of too many dish on the high seas and off-shore by commercial trollers and netters."
    No mention is ever made about how many salmon are caught by these "trollers and netters." Many fortunes have been made by white people on certain types of fishing. No mention is made, either, of the countless Japanese and Russian trawlers with their huge canneries traveling right with them, which follow our shores.
  5. "Unrestricted Fishing by Indians."
    I would like to remind one and all that we, the Indians, have lived here for thousands of years, and at no time in our history has the salmon run ever been in danger of extinction-until now!

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