Salmon Spawning Raises Hopes of Colville Native American Tribe

For the first time in 80 years, chinook salmon are spawning in the upper-Columbia River system in Washington state. The discovery of 36 “redds” (depository sites where salmon lay their eggs) along an eight-mile a tributary of the Columbia, by members of Colville Native American Tribe has been lauded by ecologists. 

Crystal Conant, a Colville tribal member of the Arrow Lakes and SanPoil bands said, “I was shocked at first, then I was just overcome with complete joy…I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.”

For decades, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville System had been planning and researching how to restore native salmon populations to the river systems above two dams built in the 1930s and ’50s which blocked the salmon from reaching the higher levels of the river system to spawn.

Because the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams didn’t include fish ladders, the salmon were blocked from their traditional spawning grounds. Colville Tribes were unable to carry out fundamental practices of their culture which included singing traditional “salmon songs,” and spear fishing around Kettle Falls.

After decades of planning, the Colville Tribes released 100 salmon in August 35 miles upstream of the two dams in an attempt to determine if they could survive and spawn.

Outfitted with electronic trackers, to the surprise of many who thought the salmon would leave the area, the hatchery-born salmon spread out and began spawning. Still to be seen is whether the salmon will be able to cross the dams and return to open water, allowing the fish to return to normal migratory patterns.  

The salmon restoration project is projected to take another 10-15 years before big-picture feasibility studies are concluded to determine whether healthy salmon populations levels can be reestablished.

But for members of the Colville Tribe, the wait is well worth it.

Colville Business Council chairman Rodney Cawston said, “Our ancestors carried a prayer that our salmon would one day return to the Upper Columbia…With all the prayers that were made historically and today, combined with all the efforts of our fisheries staff, our leaders and many others who are joined in this effort, we can bring our fish home.”

Source: Good News Network