In 1855 the Swinomish signed a treaty trading much of their land for fishing, hunting and shellfish-harvesting rights on their traditional territory.
More than 150 years later the treaty is still in effect. But the fish covered by it are in danger of vanishing, and the days when the Swinomish can exercise those rights are few.
At the time the treaty was signed, the salmon were plentiful. In fact the various salmon species’ complementary life cycles were such that the waters were stocked year round, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Brian Cladoosby told PBS Newshour in a recent interview.
“There was salmon in that slough here 365 days out of the year,” he said. “Throughout the cycle of the year, there was a different salmon that was occupying those waters.”
A combination of overfishing, habitat loss and the construction of hydroelectric dams have made inroads into the salmon population, NPR pointed out. King salmon are now an endangered species, and the window for fishing Chinook, for instance, is only three days.
Now the salmon are further endangered by climate change, Newshour reported on July 18. Here’s the full segment.