Thursday, November 10, 2005

North West Indian Art Salmons

The salmon fish has always been important to the North West Indian people. This is reflected in their North West Indian art where they do beautiful carvings of salmons. Some great examples are at North West Indian Art Salmon Carvings.

There has also been some controversial moments in history and politics involving the North West Indian people, salmon and the US government. It's been 60 years since Billy Frank's first arrest for catching salmon on the Nisqually River. He was 14 and doing what his father, his grandfather and generations of North West Indian Nisqually tribal members had done for centuries. Since then, Frank has been fighting for both his people and the salmon. "In my estimation, he's the functional equivalent of Martin Luther King, Jr. for African-American people, or Cesar Chavez for Hispanic people," said David Nicandri, director of the Washington State History Museum. The struggle went on for years as North West Indian tribes fought for their traditional fishing rights guaranteed in their treaties.

In 1974, U.S. District Judge George Boldt affirmed the nation's obligation to honor the treaties, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Boldt five years later. "One of [Frank's] great lines is about it taking so many talents and pooling of efforts to get things done," Nicandri said." He'll say, 'You need the policy people, the scientists -- and you need the getting- arrested guy, and I was the getting-arrested guy.’" Today, Billy Frank is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a coalition of salmon-treaty tribes. "So here we are today, still trying to implement the Boldt decision, still trying to implement the recovery of salmon," Frank said.

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