Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is published monthly by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the Columbia-Snake River Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead, the many benefits they deliver to people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Find out how SOS is helping lead efforts to restore health, connectivity, and resilience to the rivers and streams these fish depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and harvestable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Martha Campos.
1. You are invited: 'All Our Relations’ Indigenous-led Snake River Journey coming next month!
2. A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner: 'All Our Relations' Artist
3. Take action for Snake River salmon and steelhead today!
4. Hot Water Report 2023 - Snake River fish are in hot water!
5. 18th round of Columbia River Treaty negotiations kickstarts an important public dialogue about river, salmon and justice
6. 'Nugguam means to talk' by Susan LandGraf, a poem from 'I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State'
7. Snake River and salmon media roundup
Se’Si’Le invites you to stand with Indigenous leaders and Tribal communities by promoting and attending one or more events as part of an upcoming public 'journey' throughout the Northwest to help elevate voices and visibility around the urgent need to restore the lower Snake River and its endangered fish as part of a larger effort to honor tribal cultures and uphold our nation's long-standing promises to them.
In September and October, the 2023 All Our Relations Snake River Campaign will make seven stops in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. These events are free and open to the public. People are encouraged to attend with friends and family to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities and press the Biden Administration and Congress to act urgently and decisively to protect salmon from extinction and restore them to abundance. Native peoples in the Northwest have depended on their relationship with salmon since time immemorial. To protect the salmon and orca from extinction and uphold our nation’s promises to Tribal communities, we must urgently transition the services of the four lower Snake River dams and restore a free-flowing river.
As Chairman Shannon Wheeler of the Nez Perce Tribe, explains: "Time is running out to protect our sacred salmon. This is a crisis that threatens our way of life, and it is a violation of our treaty rights. The federal government is failing to uphold the promises made to our ancestors when we ceded our lands."
Events will feature a beautiful 8-foot in diameter hand-crafted steel sculpture created for the journey by Lummi Nation members A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner and Master Carver Jewell James that symbolizes in physical form 'All Our Relations.'
Please support the 2023 All Our Relations Snake River Journey by promoting and attending with friends and family these events in September and October:
Date: Saturday, September 23
Time: 1:00-4:30 pm
Where: United Churches of Olympia with a Procession to Capitol steps
Date: Monday, September 25
Time: 6:00-8:00 pm
Where: Ecotrust Building, Billy Frank Jr. Conference Room
Celilo Falls, OR
Date: Tuesday, September 26
Time: In the morning
Where: Celilo Park
Date: Wednesday, September 27
Time: 6:00-8:00 pm
Where: Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
Date: Thursday, September 28
Time: 6:00-7:30 pm
Where: Moscow Contemporary
Dates: Friday & Saturday September 29 & 30
Time: evening gathering on Sept. 29 & 10:00 am - 1:00 pm on Sept. 30
Where: Hells Gate State Park
Date: Sunday, October 1
Time: 6:00-8:00 pm
Where: Town Hall Seattle
A. Cyaltsa (sigh-alt-suh) Finkbonner is a member of the Lummi Nation and board member of Se'Si'Le. She is also an artist, a metalworker, and sculptor who has been collaborating with Lummi Elder and Master Carver, Jewell James (tse-Sealth), to create the artwork for the All Our Relations Snake River Journey, September 23 - October 1, 2023. (See article above).
Britt Freda, NWAAE creative director, had a chance to talk with Cyaltsa recently while she was traveling with her spouse and working on visuals for this artwork. In their conversation, Cyaltsa described the prototype Jewell James created from wood and cut-outs of tin. She talked about the complexities of combining traditional visual elements with the technical requirements of working in large-scale iron. Cyaltsa’s description of her work as "traditionally untraditional" evoked visions of multiple generations, beings, environments and relationships coming together through the hands of this artist – All Our Relations.*
It's an exciting time to have the opportunity to learn about the creative evolutions and visions of A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner. We will share more about this inspiring piece in the September edition of the Wild Salmon & Steelhead News. Until then, be sure to mark your calendars for the locations where this work will travel in late September and the beginning of October.
*All our relations is an Indigenous prayer that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees, plants, rivers, mountains, sky, rocks…
All Our Relations ©A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner/creativecuzzin.com
Free Flowing III ©Britt Freda, Northwest Artists Against Extinction; 2023 - acrylic and graphite on birch panel 24” x 48”
Do you live in Washington or Oregon? Act now to stop salmon extinction by sending a message to your Senators thanking them for their leadership—and asking them to advocate for a comprehensive regional salmon recovery plan from the Biden administration that replaces the services of the four lower Snake River dams and restores the river through dam removal - as quickly as possible.
Not so long ago, the Columbia / Snake River Basin was the most prolific salmon-producing landscape in the continental United States. Dozens of populations across this great basin have already been lost to extinction and today in the Snake River - the Columbia River's largest tributary - all four remaining salmon and steelhead populations face extinction - unless we act!
With leadership from Northwest policymakers and the Biden Administration, we still have the opportunity today to protect and restore healthy abundant populations of wild salmon and steelhead, provide a long-overdue measure of justice for Northwest Tribes, and ensure a strong and robust future in the Northwest that works for everyone. Snake River salmon can be recovered, if and only if we restore a free-flowing river by breaching the four lower Snake River dams. Please - Speak up for salmon today!
Sockeye salmon with lesions dying from hot water in the Columbia-Snake River Basin ©Conrad Gowell
SOS and 16 allied NGO partners published their first six Hot Water Report issues this summer. From early July through mid-August (so far), we’ve reported rising water temperatures in each of the reservoirs created by the eight dams on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers. Water temperatures rising over the 68°F “harm” threshold represent an existential threat to the salmon and steelhead that call these waters home.
On the lower Snake River, the reservoir behind the Ice Harbor Dam registered the highest water temperature on July 26 at 72.50°F—over 4 degrees above the 68°F “harm” threshold. Between 72-73°F water temperatures, salmon migration can stop altogether. Salmon that have stopped or slowed their migration, languish for days or weeks in warm water and begin dying from exhaustion, thermal stress, and disease.
The four federal dams and their hot water reservoirs on the lower Snake River continue to be a main obstacle to salmon and steelhead recovery. A restored, healthy, and resilient lower Snake River is necessary to uphold our nation's promises to Tribes and sustain salmon populations in perpetuity. Restoring the lower Snake is perhaps our nation's very best ecosystem restoration opportunity today - as it will reconnect the Northwest’s most emblematic fish to 5,500+ miles of pristine, cold-water river and streams in the very heart of the Pacific Northwest - in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
Read our weekly reports for updates on real-time water temperatures in the lower Snake and Columbia River reservoirs via graphs and analyses. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share our Hot Water Report posts directly to your network!
The Hot Water Report is a joint project of: Save Our wild Salmon Coalition, American Rivers, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Columbia Riverkeeper, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment Oregon, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Orca Network, Sierra Club, Snake River Waterkeeper, Wild Orca and Wild Steelhead Coalition.
Evening light on the Columbia from a bluff near Celilo Park, OR ©Peter Marbach/petermarbach.com
On August 9 and 10, American and Canadian government negotiating teams met in Seattle for the 18th round of negotiations to modernize the 1964 Columbia River Treaty. With five years of active negotiations behind them and just over one year left until critical provisions within the existing treaty expire, pressure to reach an agreement is mounting. You can read the respective, just-published American and Canadian summaries of the negotiations here and here. Last week’s talks have helped triggered helpful interest and attention in regional media outlets. The confidential nature of negotiations makes it difficult for the Northwest (and British Columbia) public - the people who will be most affected for decades by the decisions being made - to understand what's at stake and have a meaningful voice in the process.
On August 9, the Seattle Times published a guest opinion by SOS executive director Joseph Bogaard and Martin Carver, the lead for a coalition of Canadian environmental organizations working on the Treaty from north of the border.
"While there is justifiable pressure to reach an agreement swiftly, the main goal should be to get it right… Tribes and First Nations have long proposed that ecosystem function — health of the river — be included as a treaty purpose. Taking this step would make the treaty a tool to restore and sustain the well-being of the Columbia River and its major sub-basins and to integrate river health with hydropower and flood protection… We ask the negotiators to now publicly support this as an additional purpose."
The next day, Seattle Times' staff writer Gregory Scruggs reported on the negotiations and what's at stake, including quotes from stakeholders and sovereigns. The U.S. State Department notably commented: "Protection of the ecosystem is a high priority for this Administration. We are seeking ways to enhance our environmental coordination with Canada through the Treaty regime, including flows for salmon migration."
Bogaard and Carver's op-ed also prompted a mixed-message editorial from the Vancouver Columbian. It both acknowledged the need for significantly improved river stewardship while also seeming to embrace current, clearly inadequate status quo: “While negotiators debate a renewal of the treaty, provisions addressing river health—particularly the impact of climate change—should be considered… but the risk is that a renewed treaty could become so complex as to undermine negotiations. Flood control, irrigation and hydroelectric production must remain the primary duties of the collaboration between the United States and western Canada…”
Arguments for preserving a costly status quo on the basis of 'simplicity' are seductive but misleading. A Treaty crafted in the last century without the assent or participation of Indigenous communities and focused solely on power production and flood risk management is indefensible today.
A modernized Treaty must become a useful tool to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, for protecting and restoring endangered fish and wildlife populations, and account for aging infrastructure and a highly dynamic energy sector. An updated Treaty must reflect today's knowledge and societal values. Canda and the U.S. must come to an agreement that meaningfully integrates economic, social, and environmental interests into an updated Treaty.
The perspective advanced in the Columbian’s editorial - and many leaders in the public power sector - fails to acknowledge the co-managerial and sovereign status of Columbia Basin Tribes (and First Nations in Canada). This out-dated thinking must end. The basin's Indigenous communities have stewarded its lands and waters since time immemorial; many hold treaty rights and possess unique expertise and wealth of of knoweldge that can benefit all the people of our region.
While First Nations are formal members of Canada's negotiating team, the U.S. State Department has invited a number of Tribal members to serve as expert advisors - not as members of the American negotiating team. Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chair Corinne Sams remarked in the recent Seattle Times article, "The Columbia Basin Tribes have not been as involved in the negotiations as we expected, nor as involved as we asked."
It’s our collective responsibility to help shape our future with open minds and open hearts. The complex decades ahead, and the children and grandchildren who will inherit them, demand nothing less.
YOU CAN HELP ON AUG. 22: The U.S. State Department will hold it's third 'Listening Session' on Tuesday, August 22 (5-7pm PT) to engage the public on Treaty modernization. Click here to register, and email ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov to request a 3-minute speaking slot. Please speak up today for a healthier, more resilient Columbia River to support abundant fish and wildlife populations and sustain vibrant and just communities.
Heritage Species ©Annie Brule, Northwest Artists Against Extinction
'Nugguam means to talk' by Susan LandGraf
Waves that never die
talk to the salmon
that know by smell
their way upriver home.
Waves talk to the wind
and the knife-sharp
grasses that can cut
Wind talks with the Quinault
where it empties
into the sea, scours
the clapboard siding
of the fish house. Gulls shriek
on the roof, and the blue
and white tsunami signs
This is where raven
wings shadow the mercantile
raven who brought light
to the Canoe and Cedar people.
This is where salmon ran
so thick people could
walk on water. Here
the cedars talk
listen to the wind
to the salmon
gulls and ravens.
This is their truth.
I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, is edited by Rena Priest and published by Empty Bowl Press. The anthology features more than 150 Washington poets ranging from first graders to Tribal Elders, all inspired by the Northwest's beloved, iconic salmon. You can purchase the anthology here.
Susan Landgraf was awarded an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship in 2020. The resulting book of Muckleshoot Indian Tribe poetry will be published by Washington State University Press. Her books include The Inspired Poet, a writing exercise book from Two Sylvias Press (2019); What We Bury Changes the Ground, and a chapbook, Other Voices. More than four hundred of Susan's poems have appeared in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, The Meadow, Rattle, and CALYX. Her chapbook is forthcoming from Ravenna Press. She served as poet laureate of Auburn, Washington, from 2018 to 2020.
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and salmon recovery:
Idaho Statesman Opinion: The science is clear. Dams must be removed for Snake River salmon to have a future by Doug Austen and Helen Neville (August 11, 2023)
The Lewiston Tribune: Snake River sockeye run sputters (August 4, 2023)
The Seattle Times Opinion: Modernize Columbia River Treaty to meet challenges ahead by Joseph Bogaard and Martin Carver (August 9, 2023)
Idaho Capital Sun: Salmon politics in motion: Responsible momentum is building in Idaho, Pacific Northwest by Pat Ford (July 27, 2023)
East Oregonian: Other views: The science is clear on restoring wild salmon in the Snake River Basin by Rick Williams (July 22, 2023)
The Lewiston Tribune: Sockeye begin epic Northwest journey (July 22, 2023)
Spokesman-Review Opinion: Economic development for rural communities and recovery for imperiled salmon by Dan McDonald (July 19, 2023)
- Oregon Public Broadcasting: With one down, Klamath dam removal proceeds on schedule. Removing the Copco 2 Dam takes deconstruction crews one step closer to drawdowns of the remaining three reservoirs next January. Read the full article for the latest update on the Klamath River restoration process. (July 16, 2023)