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Sea Lions, WDFW, and TOKENISM

I am writing from the Yakama Nation. And I want to say that I just saw the most shameful thing. It involves video taped footage of a press conference held by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (and also ODFW) at the Bonneville dam. The press conference was to convince the public that these organizations need to, and can safely kill sea lions to protect salmon at that dam. And to make their point, they paraded out a woman presented as a Native grandmother. It was the most shameless display of tokenism I have yet seen, and went mostly unchallenged by the press who eagerly lapped it up and patted her on her head. It was disgusting.
Although the Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission says that Native people support killing sea lions, they are not speaking the truth. Native people support the treaty right to fish and hunt on traditional lands. They do not support killing sea lions. Only some foolish sell outs to the white man's plans support killing sea lions.

I am with someone who was at the press conference, who has shown me video footage of what happened there. And two people masquerading as representatives for the Yakama Nation said to people that they want to kill sea lions because the sea lions are taking fish that "we want." Then they were asked if they are concerned about non-Native fishing going on by commercial and sport fishermen, and both people declined to say that they were. So obviously both are co-opted because their paycheck comes from the agencies that came up with this stupid plan to kill sea lions so that white fishermen can continue to fish out the endangered salmon. This is not a plan that has anything to do with protecting salmon.

What I saw in this video taped footage was a woman willing to be an Aunt Tom, speaking up for white men's interest being paraded before the press, in the hope that no one would dare question a little old Native lady. I'm questioning it. This person was a fraud. She sold out her own people. I find her most shameful. I am offended deeply by people willing to be patted on the head by Whitey like that just for some money. She should not have spoken like that as a token representing the Yakama Nation. She only represents the WDFW. And the CRITFC only represents itself. Yakama people have always fished on the Columbia and there is a treaty that says that will always continue. But sea lions have always fished here too and white men take many times more fish than sea lions. No one should shoot sea lions. And no one should say the Yakama people all think it's all right to kill sea lions.

A true tribal leader 03.Mar.2009 12:49

Charles Hudson hudc@critfc.org

The tribal elder cited in this article is the Yakama Nation Tribal Councilwoman Fidelia Andy. In 2007, Ms. Andy was elected as the first woman to lead the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, an organization representing not only the Yakama Nation but also the Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce tribes. Ms. Andy has been involved in this issue since the since the tribes collectively decided to address the sea lion problem and has willingly advocated for tribes' and specifically the Yakama Nation's interests in a highly public way. She unapologetically presents her name and position on this, representing the will of the Yakama people on this issue. In that capacity, she has served on task forces, testified before Congress, and heard testimony from members of the tribal fishing community. This position truly reflects the will of the tribal members and fishers she represents. Ms. Andy has been an outstanding tribal leader who has fought tirelessly for the rights of her people. As an elected official, Ms. Andy is dedicated to protecting and restoring balance to the Columbia River ecosystem. As a traditional tribal woman and fisher, she knows the Columbia River and the sacred role salmon play in tribal culture in a very intimate and personal way. And as a tribal elder, she is given the respect and honor that elders are always afforded by traditional native people.

Ms. Andy, nor the tribes in general take delight in the regrettable necessity of removing sea lions. However one would be hard pressed to find a tribal fisher or tribal member on one of the reservations in the Columbia Basin who did not support this measure. Unfortunately it is an all too common occurrence for tribes and tribal people to be vilified, disparaged, or marginalized for not fitting into the "noble savage" role that is useful for some groups to perpetuate. The tribes' goal has always been and will always be to put fish back in the rivers and restore the waters where fish live. Salmon lie at the heart of our culture and we will never let them disappear.


The Truth about the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission 03.Mar.2009 16:10


Actually, Charles, as an employee who gets paid (considerably) by the CRITFC, I would not expect you to be any more forthright about this than you have been. However, just to set the record straight: The CRITFC is a fishing industry lobby group. Nothing more, nothing less. Although CRITFC would like to come off as the voice of all native people, the truth is, it's an industry lobby group that speaks for fishing industry profits.

Fidelia Andy, like Charles Hudson, is an emplyee getting paid a considerable amount of money to do PR for the CRITFC. That makes her a voice for this lobby organization. Period.

As the person who shot the video footage referenced in the article above that was written by someone from the Yakama Nation, I want to point out that both Fidelia Andy and the CRITFC "scientist," who were paid by CRITFC to speak at the ODFW dog and pony show last week, were asked point blank whether they were as concerned about non-native fishing on the Columbia as they are about sea lions. And both declined to express any concern about over-fishing, even the over-fishing by non-native sport and commercial fishermen.

Given that fishermen are killing 13% (at least) of the endangered salmon on the Columbia river, while sea lions are accused of taking only 4% (at most), one would think that anyone who is really concerned about saving salmon would be at least as concerned by human over-fishing as by natural predation from sea lions. And, if they were not paid shills for CRITFC and by extension state Fish & Wildlife agencies, they would have acknowledged such concern. But they did not.

Both speakers from CRITFC traded on the precious coin of culture, and I'm not sure it was appropriate for them to do so.

In point of fact, native fishing on the Columbia is an important part of native culture. And it is a right protected by treaty. As someone who cares very much about both the salmon and the sea lions of the Columbia, I acknowledge this, and understand very deeply that many native people are rightfully and honestly concerned about the status of the salmon on the river. Such a genuine concern cannot be compared to the CRITFC/ODFW/WDFW "concern" that would knowingly ignore the real cause of the crisis at the expense of both salmon and sea lions. While many people really care about the recovery of the salmon species, the CRITFC/WDFW/ODFW only cares about getting every last fish for themselves before they go extinct. There is a fundamental difference there that has not been acknowledged by Charles Hudson, by the CRITFC, or by the ODFW or the WDFW.

I also understand why native people might be reluctant to decrease tribal fishing on the river, even if over-fishing by humans is causing the salmon to head toward extinction. After all, native people fished this river for thousands of years without causing harm to the salmon population, and again, their right to fish here trumps the right of any other non-tribal human fishing faction. So I would never presume to try to tell tribal fishermen that this equation should be balanced on their backs.

However, neither should it be balaned on the backs of sea lions. They have been on this river even longer than any human population, and they, too, fished this river for many thousands of years without reducing the salmon population. So killing sea lions will not save salmon. It cannot. Because sea lion predation is not what is sending the salmon into decline. As long as we scapegoat sea lions without addressing the real causes of the crisis -- over-fishing, habitat destruction, and dams, the true causes of the problem go unaddressed, and the salmon continue to disappear. This is wrong. CRITFC knows this is wrong, but like the ODFW, they do not care. It is a politically easy false solution.

Every single non-native net, line, and hook on that river should be pulled out of the water for good, until the salmon have fully recovered. It's as simple as that. This is the only way to ever save the salmon. Decisions regarding native fishing belong in the hands of native people. But anyone who really cares about saving salmon, rather than just greedily wanting more fish for their own profits, would want to see human fishing reduced on the Columbia. Even just non-tribal fishing. CRITFC's highly paid employees did not express such a desire. Said one of them, "We just want those 4000 fish. We don't want the sea lions to get them, because we want those 4000 fish." That was not a statement about salmon recovery. Not by a long shot. CRITFC is not about saving salmon any more than ODFW is. They're just lobby groups who are trying to satisfy constituents who make money off the salmon. They should be clear about that.

rebuttal to: whom speaks... 03.Mar.2009 18:27

Charles Hudson hudc@critfc.org

Whom speaks:

I can't tell what aggravates you more - that I'm right, or that I get paid.

In any case it would be to your benefit to have some misunderstandings remedied.
CRITFC is neither a lobby group, nor an industry group. CRITFC is an extension of tribal governement created by resolution of our four member tribes in 1977 (Yakama, Warm Spring, Umatilla and Nez Perce)to provide key services in support of each tribes goals to protect the treaty right and tribal co-management of their resources. Science and Law are at our core. Our aspiration is to see our tribal members able to exercise their right to fish in all "usual and accustomed places" - a phrase from the treaty - in perpetuity.

Tribal people do fish...hallelujah. A lot of people still can't get over that. Your "last fish" comment is dinosaur-era rhetoric that even the most hostile River industries have abandoned. Even the Bush Administration recognized that its' hard to trump the Constitution and Supreme Court when it comes to tribal rights. Regrettably some sea lion advocates haven't done similar homework.

You do seem to have strong feelings on salmon harvest. There are myriad public forums to participate in and affect decision-making. I'd be happy to direct you to the one that most suits you.

Thanks 04.Mar.2009 22:17


Nice try, Charles. I can tell you rehearse that speech a lot. But in truth, your group is a lobby group for the native fishing industry. That's just the fact. And, just to throw in my thoughts here, no one on this thread is saying anything against native fishing. You're trying to turn this discussion that direction, but no one is saying that. They're simply saying it's not cool that your lobby group is supporting the scapegoating of sea lions when that is so clearly not the solution to the salmon crisis.