The Boldt Decision was a pivotal victory for Native Nations in the struggle for treaty fishing rights in the Pacific Northwest. Judge Boldt not only ruled that treaty tribes are entitled to half of the harvestable catch, he also stipulated an equal comanagement relationship between the treaty tribes and the state of Washington to restore and protect salmon habitat. After the United States Supreme Court upheld the Boldt Decision in 1979, state and tribal governments struggled to define the comanagement relationship and each party's legal obligations. What did comanagement mean? Who was responsible for what? The uncertainty raises the question, "Were the Fish Wars resolved?"
The state of Washington had difficulty accepting the validity and success of traditional Native knowledge of management.
Attitudes were slow to change, until sports fishers saw the return of salmon in Washington State's waters.
It is not common knowledge that the treaties the United States enters into with any nation are constitutionally the "supreme law of the land."
Decades after the Boldt Decision, the state and tribes continue to battle in courts to define treaty rights.
In the forty years since the Boldt Decision, tribes have grown in population, influence, and economy.
Salmon People cease to exist without salmon. To witness the return is spiritually invigorating.
Every year, treaty tribes in western Washington publish a comprehensive report that outlines the quality of salmon habitats across the region.
Critical to the Boldt Decision was the ruling that treaty tribes were comanagers of salmon, along with state and federal governments.
When Boldt ruled that treaties guaranteed fifty percent of the fishing harvest to Indian fishers, including off reservation fishing, he looked to historical maps to determine these usual and accustomed boundaries. Reaching consensus from these maps is a challenge. For instance, the Makah are one of several Native Nations who may have had ancestral hunting and fishing grounds reduced as a result of the Boldt Decision.
Indians and non-Indians alike felt the sting of salmon depletion; the Boldt Decision did not restore salmon at the pounding of a gavel. are still a fraction of what they used to be.