News Articles

Important articles published by national and regional news outlets related to wild salmon restoration in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

May 8, 2022

By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter

2022.totem.poleThis salmon is carved from cedar. But it still travels.

The totem pole, the work of Native carvers, is part of the Spirit of the Waters journey to the Snake River in Idaho, making stops in communities in Washington and Oregon. It’s due in Seattle on May 19.

The journey, funded by nonprofits, foundations and other partners, is being undertaken to build momentum for a Native-led movement for the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams to rebuild salmon runs and to help the southern resident killer whales that depend on them.

In stops with the totem pole all along the way, Native youth, spiritual and political leaders will speak in public forums about the centrality of water and salmon to the health of all life in the region, for generations uncounted.

At the center of the journey is a spirit of renewal and recommitment to a respectful relationship with nature as a centerpiece of health for all beings, including human societies nurtured by abundance in the Columbia and Snake rivers, said Jay Julius, a lifelong Lummi fisherman and president of the nonprofit Se’Si’Le, which is organizing the journey.

Today salmon in the Columbia and Snake and the J, K, and L pods of southern resident killer whales are at risk of extinction.

Dam removal on the Lower Snake is at the center of a regional conversation underway about the costs and benefits of dam removal for salmon and orca recovery, with a consultant-led effort requested by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The dams, completed in 1975, provide hydropower, irrigation and transportation from the sea all the way to Idaho. However, those benefits have come at a cost to salmon.
Native advocates for dam removal on the Lower Snake and their allies hope to raise visibility for the plight of salmon and orca, said Jewell James, of the Lummi Nation, lead carver of the pole.


The pole is an effigy, to be used in synchronization with prayers and ceremonies to heal the river, James said. “I specifically made a large salmon to represent the Columbia River, and those June Hogs, those giant salmon that used to be.

“The Columbia and Snake River Chinook is important to the resident killer whale people that travel up and down the Pacific Coast.”

The pole is intended to help unite people across the region on behalf of the salmon and orca, James said. “We live in a time in which society is so desensitized to what we are doing to the Earth. We are setting it up for its demise, our children and grandchildren will suffer if we do not take action. So we are hoping the tribes will unite and people will stand behind our concerns about saving the Columbia and Snake river.”

This is the 12th totem pole he and the Lummi House of Tears carvers have produced for journeys raising awareness of everything from the dangers of fossil fuels to sacred lands.

This pole includes the carving of a baby orca atop the head of a killer whale, evoking the journey of mother orca Tahlequah in the summer of 2018 through the Salish Sea. J35 lost her calf that had lived only one half-hour. She refused to let the baby go, carrying it on her head or with her teeth for 17 days and more than 1,000 miles in what scientists widely interpreted as a journey of grief.

Tahlequah has since had another calf, a ray of hope for the endangered population of southern residents. There are only 75 left. The southern residents face at least three challenges to survival: pollution; noise and disturbance that make it hard for them to find Chinook salmon, their favorite food; and dwindling Chinook runs throughout their foraging range.

Preparation for the totem pole journey has been underway for months, from making the carving to spiritual work.

JoDe Goudy, enrolled member of the Yakama Nation and his family traveled from the headwaters of the Snake to the sea with one of the salmon carvings that form a base of the pole. Along the way, he and his family fed the rivers the traditional foods of their people, to honor the living being of the Columbia and Snake, Goudy said.

They also revived an old tradition, lightly touching each of the Lower Snake River dams as they proceeded downriver, in a practice called counting coup — a gesture of courageous warriors.

The totem pole journey is an exercise in Indigenous identity, from the Columbia Plateau to the ocean, Goudy said. “All these salmon nations and people hinge on a right and respectful relationship with water and the salmon.” Survival of Indigenous identity and culture depends on the salmon and the water, Goudy said. “They are not commodities but that is what they are being treated like.”

Scientific reports have found Snake River spring-summer Chinook are among the most at risk from climate change, and warming sea surface temperatures have put them on a path to extinction. Better conditions at every life stage are essential to Snake Basin salmon survival, scientists have found.
The cumulative effects of climate change and dams on the Columbia and Snake are the main cause of summer water temperatures lethal to salmon, the Environmental Protection Agency has found.

Lee Whiteplume, enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe said the totem pole journey has “a big purpose, to raise awareness to the mainstream society that our salmon need help. They need a lot of help.

“How do we change the mainstream mindset, to see we are all part of the circle of life?”
Biologists at Nez Perce have documented that 42% of the Snake Basin’s spring-summer Chinook populations are already nearly extinct, with just 50 or fewer fish coming back each year from 2015 through 2020.

The U.S. government is not keeping its treaty promise under which the Nez Perce and other tribes ceded their lands, in return for their reserved right to harvest salmon and other foods in their usual places, forever.

“You can’t catch salmon if there aren’t any salmon to catch,” Whiteplume said.

Julius, a former chair of the Lummi Nation, said the journey is meant to spark hope for salmon and orca recovery, and to bring people together.

“We want to bring attention and awareness to something that is more than a political issue, it is a moral issue,” said Julius, of the Se’Si’Le Foundation. “We call this journey the Spirit of the Water because water connects all of us.”

Lynda V. Mapes:; on Twitter: @LyndaVMapes. Lynda specializes in coverage of the environment, natural history and Native American tribes.

See the full article with photos here:

By Natasha Brennan
May 4, 2022

TPJLummi Tribal members and Native communities across the Pacific Northwest gathered with faith leaders, activists and neighbors for the Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey launch Tuesday, May 3, at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.

The 2,300-mile journey highlights the vital role of the Snake River, salmon and orca to the lifeways and identities of Tribal communities in the region. The updated pole, created by House of Tears Carvers, will travel for 17 days through Tribal and metropolitan communities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to advocate for the removal of dams on the Lower Snake River and for the health of salmon and orca.

Sponsored by Se’Si’Le (pronounced saw-see-lah) — an inter-Tribal nonprofit aimed at reintroducing Indigenous spiritual law into the mainstream conversation about climate change and the environment — the Spirit of the Waters Totem Pole Journey informs and engages Pacific Northwest communities through inter-generational voices, ceremony, art and science, spirituality, ancestral knowledge and cross-cultural collaboration.

The pole builds off the House of Tears Carvers’ 16-foot pole created for the journey to Miami to advocate for the repatriation of southern resident orca Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut in 2018.

In addition to a fresh coat of paint, the pole — which has been displayed at the Stommish Grounds on the Lummi Reservation near Bellingham — features two 8-foot salmon representing the 150-pound “June hogs,” an extinct salmon of the Columbia River, master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James explained.

“We’re recognizing that all the way from the Chinooks at the mouth of the river to the people of Celilo Falls, Umatilla, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce — we’re all salmon people. From the Columbia River to the Snake River to the Salish Sea,” James said in an interview with McClatchy. “The Salish Sea is being destroyed, life is dying and there’s more than just human beings that depend on it.”

The salmon replaced two seals from the original pole, which represented the food source of the transient orca pod.

A third 9-foot salmon featuring splashing water and a human on the side will join the totem pole on its journey. JoDe Goudy, Se’Si’Le board member and former chairman of the Yakama Nation, brought the piece along the Columbia River for various blessings.

At the tip of the pole’s central orca nose is an addition of a small orca, representing the calf of Tahlequah — a southern resident killer whale who garnered international attention after pushing her dead calf more than 1,000 miles in 2018. James said the red spot on the calf, which was originally carved by accident, now serves as a reminder that ship traffic is a danger to the whale population.

The new additions were carved from cedar from the Lummi Nation culture department. James estimates the updated pole weighs in at about 3,500 pounds.

Speakers at the event included Lummi Tribal members Siam’el wit and Douglas James joined by fly angler Gian Lawrence.

“We need to restore the salmon run. We need to replenish the food for our orcas, our beloved relatives, our qw’e lh’ol’ me chen,” Siam’el wit said, advocating for the removal of the Lower Snake River dams.

In Xwlemi Chosen, the language of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) people, orca are called “qw’e lh’ol’ me chen,” meaning “our relations who live under the water.”

“It’s time to restore Mother Nature back to how it is intended — as falls should fall, as rivers shall flow,” she said.

In a speech, Se’Si’Le founder, Lummi Tribal member and former chairman Jay Julius thanked James for his activism for the climate and Indigenous peoples and asked the community to follow his example.

“One thing we all have — all of us — is a treaty. An immigrant sovereign came together with my family in 1855... It’s been a struggle,” he said. “It’s your treaty too. It’s not just an Indian thing. It’s all of ours. It’s our hope. It’s our future.”

Julius and Santana Rabang — who is of Coast Salish and Stó:lō Nation heritage — presented at the first-ever Indigenous Earth Day event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April. Rabang spoke on behalf of Indigenous youth at the totem pole launch.

“These fights are going to be left to us and they’re showing us the way,” Rabang said about the elders and Indigenous leaders of the journey.

The launch featured songs from Lummi drummers and singers, music from Native flutist Peter Ali and a choir performance. Various local faith leaders blessed the pole’s journey and supported its message, including Echoes Pastor Emma Donohew — whose ancestor was an Oklahoma dam builder.

The event concluded with the community surrounding the pole to offer a group prayer.

The pole’s 17-day journey will continue in Oregon, then Idaho and will conclude in Washington:

For more information on the pole’s journey or to access virtual events, visit

Four dams along the Lower Snake River are drawing protests for their impacts on salmon.

By Zeina Mohammed
April 19, 2022

cw 0419 mohammed activism 1160 01CLIMATEWIRE | Thousands of students in the Pacific Northwest are fighting to protect salmon and steelhead by joining tribes and state officials to call for the removal of four dams along Washington's Lower Snake River.

The dams are part of the Federal Columbia River Power System, the largest regional supplier of clean energy. While the hydroelectric dams have produced emission-free power, their impact on fish species has drawn attention from activists and high-profile officials who say the structures should be replaced with other forms of renewable energy.

“The question should not be whether to remove the dams but rather how best to mitigate the impacts of doing so,” said Maanit Goel, 16, founder of the Washington Youth Salmon Alliance. “Clean energy at the cost of a keystone species is not really clean energy at all.”

Raised in the Seattle suburbs, the high school sophomore leads a youth movement advocating for fish protections because a shortage of salmon endangers the orcas in Puget Sound that rely on them for food.

Over the past few months, the group has been collecting hundreds of signatures to present to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the dams, to draw attention to the structures' effect on fish.

Shiva Rajbhandari of Idaho leads the Youth Salmon Protectors, a coalition of over 2,000 students pushing for the removal of the four dams. The group has been working since January 2021 to pressure lawmakers to take legislative action toward breaching the dams, which block the fish from swimming upriver into Idaho.

Last year, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) proposed the Columbia Basin Fund initiative, a $33 billion effort to remove and replace the dams by 2031 and create clean energy programs that would help restore local wildlife. A few months later, Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they would propose plans for the dams' removal and replacement by July.

“This summer is the summer for salmon,” Rajbhandari said. “We mean to mobilize over a million people, including at least several hundred thousand students, to take action and tell their elected officials why this matters.”

The issue has also received attention from the Biden administration. Last fall, the administration announced it will collaborate with tribes through a multiagency effort to restore wild salmon and their ecosystems.

Last month, the White House published a blog acknowledging federal culpability for actions “that have caused harm to the ecology of the river, its tributaries, and importantly, its first residents” while reaffirming the administration's commitment to work with tribes.

Youth activists said they are optimistic that federal attention will lead to the dams' removal.

“I hope the Biden administration works with lawmakers like Rep. Simpson and the delegations from Oregon and Washington to solidify a plan,” said Liz Duke-Moe, one of the leaders of the Youth Salmon Protectors. “This is no longer a fight for salmon, but a moment to prove there is hope for our generation within the climate crisis.”

Senior members of Biden administration, six Columbia Basin Tribes met last week for a ‘nation-to-nation’ talk on protected fish

By Eric Barker
March 29, 2022

srx Salmon hearing 7 t1140The Biden administration reiterated Monday its determination to change course on the decadeslong, $17 billion effort to recover wild salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers and to uphold the treaty rights of the Nez Perce and other tribes of the basin.

But it did not say how it hopes to improve those efforts, which have yet to prove successful.

Four runs of Snake River salmon and steelhead and nine others in the Columbia River basin are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Several tribes in the basin signed treaties in the mid 1800s that ceded millions of acres of land to the federal government but reserved, among other things, their rights to hunt and fish in “usual and accustomed places.”

Senior members of the administration including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Brenda Mallory, held “nation-to-nation” remote meetings with Columbia Basin tribes last week. Representatives from six of the tribes gathered at the Clearwater River Casino on the Nez Perce Reservation for the talks.

A four-page statement released as a Council on Environmental Quality blog summarized the discussion. It recognized federal dams as a significant source of salmon mortality and tribal injustice, while also noting the positive attributes dams provide to citizens across the Pacific Northwest.

The statement said the administration was asked by tribal governments such as the Nez Perce to breach the four lower Snake River dams. Many scientists say the dams must be removed if wild fish are to be recovered. The statement acknowledged Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s dam removal and economic mitigation plan, and that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray are studying the issue.

Administration officials said they were asked by the tribes to better fund salmon recovery; to give tribes and states a larger role in the effort; and to expand anadromous fish recovery to the upper Columbia and Snake rivers, where large hydroelectric dams drove fish to extinction in the mid 1900s.

“As we reflect on what we heard, we know that any long-term solution must account for the varied and crucial services provided by the dams, as well as the people, communities, and industries who rely upon them,” the administration officials wrote. “We cannot continue business as usual. Doing the right thing for salmon, Tribal Nations, and communities can bring us together. It is time for effective, creative solutions.”

Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Samuel N. Penney described the meeting as positive and said he sought to convey the urgency required to recover salmon, steelhead and pacific lamprey. Last year, analysis by the tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resources Management found 42% of wild Snake River spring chinook populations and 19% of wild steelhead are tipping toward extinction.

“We are at a crisis state with salmon recovery,” Penney said, “and we expect the federal government to uphold their (treaty) trust responsibilities and that there is still tribal injustice to this day that needs to be addressed.”

The tribe has sued the federal government over several iterations of its plan that aims to balance the needs of protected fish with operation of the Columbia River Hydropower System. Last fall, the Biden administration announced the long-running litigation — which includes the state of Oregon and a coalition of environmental and fishing groups as plaintiffs — would be paused while the two sides seek long-term solutions. That process is expected to wrap up at the end of July. Inslee and Murray are expected to release a draft of their Snake River salmon recovery plan next month and make a final decision on breaching by July 31.

The statement that was signed by Haaland, Granholm, Mallory, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor, and administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Richard W. Spinrad said the government has also been talking with other stakeholders in the region and formed an interagency group to “identify a durable path forward that ensures a clean energy future, supports local and regional economies, and restores ecosystem function, while honoring longstanding commitments to Tribal Nations.”

Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest River Partners, said he has twice met with federal officials about the government’s intention on changing course. He said his group is supportive of salmon recovery efforts but said Monday’s statement put too much emphasis on dams as a source of salmon mortality and ignored other factors such as ocean conditions, predators and climate change. He said his and other groups stressed that salmon survival has declined up and down the West Coast.

“We think there are ways to help salmon that don’t involve getting rid of those four lower Snake River dams,” Miller said. “We wish they had expanded the discussion to those things.”

Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League at Boise, said he is happy the administration recognizes a new strategy is needed.

“They are saying we cannot continue business as usual,” Hayes said. “That is something many people in the region have been saying — tribes, conservation groups, fishing groups and even industry groups — that the status quo is not working and it’s time to do something very different.”


Barker may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.

By Tony Overman
April 2, 2022

Oly RallySalmon supporters gathered for speakers, a march and the formation of a human orca mural on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington, calling for the removal of Snake River dams to aid in salmon recovery and survival.

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By News Tribune Staff
March 27, 2022

Tacoma Rally 2Activists rallied Saturday in Tacoma on behalf of Northwest salmon runs, calling for removal of four dams on the lower Snake River, and seeking attention from state and federal elected officials.

The “Stop Salmon Extinction — Free the Snake River” event started at the University of Washington Tacoma. Activists then marched to the local federal offices of U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and U.S. Sens Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Featured speakers included Puyallup Tribal Council member Annette Bryan and Port of Tacoma Commissioner Kristin Ang.Tacoma Rally

Following the downtown procession, rally participants shifted to Swan Creek Park on the city’s east side for a celebration and park cleanup effort, sponsored by the Puyallup Tribe and Tacoma Ocean Fest.

Activists plan to follow Saturday’s event with an April 2 rally and “human orca mural” in Olympia. Activities start at 9 a.m. at the Olympia Ballroom, 116 Legion Way SE, Olympia.

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