Pacific Coast:
Water Quality Improvement Case Study


"You know, it's a really great feeling to have the freedom to go back on the river to fish, because that's our livelihood, the salmon."

David Sohappy (Yakama), 1989

American Indians have lived and fished along coastal and inland Northwest waters for thousands of years. In the 1850s, Indian Nations of the Pacific Northwest signed treaties with the United States government, ceding millions of acres of land. In exchange, the tribes retained reservation lands and the rights to fish and hunt in their "usual and accustomed places", including places outside reservation boundaries.

Today, Native Nations of the Pacific Northwest are leaders in the protection and preservation of salmon. Examine these case studies and consider the actions Native Nations take to restore salmon and, in turn, strengthen their cultures.


Quileute Natural Resources

Quileute Natural Resources is a division of the Quileute Nation government. Its mission is to apply careful resource management so that treaty guarantees—the right to fish and hunt in usual and accustomed areas—can be sustained for future generations.

Quileute Natural Resources runs programs that include fisheries management, hatchery operations, salmon restoration, and environmental repair.

Case Study Initiative: Salmon Habitat Restoration

Many tribes throughout the regions of Washington State work to restore salmon populations and the habitat that sustains salmon. The Boldt Decision of 1974 created a comanagement relationship between tribal and state governments. Although priorities and methods may differ with changes in political administrations, there remains one constant: the return of salmon could not have occurred without the tireless efforts of the Native Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

"We comanage with the state of Washington. And we also comanage with the federal government. Every time we have a governor come and go, or a senator come and go, they come back and they talk to us, and every one of them said, 'We couldn't have taken care of the resource as good as we did without the tribes.' The tribes have brought a different element of what needs to be done in terms of management. And it's not just about the almighty dollar, it's about perpetuation of the species and about doing the right thing."

Mel Moon ( Quileute ), NMAI Interview, July 2016
Washington State and federal leaders have recognized the importance of the cultural values that inform the work that Native Nations do to restore and maintain salmon for future generations.
Discussion Question
Speculate on what you think Mel Moon means when he says that tribes bring "a different element of what needs to be done in terms of management".
Salmon restoration is a team effort. Restoration efforts for salmon habitat usually occur at sites that are outside of Native reservations. Therefore, Native Nations often work with timber landowners and state and federal agencies to assess habitat status, prioritize projects, and implement restoration. One of the most common fixes is removing blockages that impede fish migrations. Aging culverts, such as the one featured here, block or impede access to salmon spawning and rearing habitat.

U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak crew opening access for salmon, May 2017. Photograph by Lisa Hupp, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Discussion Question

What do you think about the Quileute working with commercial timber businesses as well as state and federal agencies to restore salmon habitat?

What do the Quileute's efforts say about the importance they place on the survival of salmon?

Technicians count the numbers of Lake Creek Chinook and Coho salmon species in the Quileute River Watershed .

Photograph by Debbie Preston, Information and Educator Officer, Coastal Region. From the State of our Watersheds 2016 Report, courtesy of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
Discussion Question

Study the image. Why do you think the Quileute conduct surveys (counts) of different salmon species?

How might these counts guide their efforts in salmon restoration?

"Habitat projects are vital to restoring the salmon fishery . We have successfully partnered on projects in the past, but we need many more into the future."

Mel Moon ( Quileute ), NMAI Interview, July 2016
Mel Moon, Quileute Natural Resources Director, has a long history of working to restore salmon and, in turn, strengthen cultural practices of Pacific Northwest Native Nations.
Discussion Question
Brainstorm the kinds of future partnerships you think the Quileute will need to form in order to ensure salmon survival for the future.
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Columbia River/Plateau: Salmon Reintroduction Case Study
Puget Sound: Estuary Restoration Case Study