The Lummi People are Fighting to Preserve Their Heritage: Fishing

Like all Coast Salish tribes, the Lummi identify as ‘salmon people’… Yet over the past century, global warming, habitat destruction, pollution, shipping traffic and other factors have decimated the Pacific salmon population. So Lummi fishers have turned, with some reluctance, to crab and shellfish for sustenance and income.” T. Kim, The New York Times, Oct 23, 2021

Photographs by Damon Winter – The New York Times

Excerpt: Can This Tribe of ‘Salmon People’ Pull Off One More Win? By E. Tammy Kim, Photographs by Damon Winter, The New York Times, October 23, 2021

“One afternoon this August, I boarded the Salish Sea, a crabbing boat named after the inland ocean that gives the Washington State coastline its defining divot. Dana Culaxten Wilson, one of the most prolific fishers in the Lummi Nation, and his crew of two were on their final outing of a 30-hour ‘crab opening,’ a period approved for tribal commercial crabbing…Colorful buoys marking crab pots dotted the sound.

Dana Culaxten Wilson and his grandson pulling crab pots. Photo- Damon Winter

Mr. Wilson and his crew — his grandson and an old friend — used a pulley to hoist the pots, then shook their skittering contents into a bin; they sorted the red-orange heap and transferred larger crabs into a barrel for sale…Crab and shellfish have become important sources of income and sustenance for the Lummi as fish stocks have declined. Words like adaptation and resilience are often used to discuss our response to accelerating climate change. They also describe, and terribly understate, what the Lummi and other Native peoples have had to do to survive.

Photo-Damon Winter

Time and again, the Lummi have confronted existential threats and built broad, unlikely coalitions with environmental activists and white fishers…But there is always a new threat in the congested waterways of the Pacific Northwest: The tribe must now persuade the Canadian government not to expand a shipping port into the Salish Sea.

The Lummi do not use nets when fish show signs of distress. Photo- Damon Winter

Lummi citizens speak of life ‘pre-contact’: the land, community and traditions their ancestors enjoyed before colonization in what is now Washington and British Columbia. The bloody history of settlement broke up this way of life, but the Lummi did everything they could to retain their right to fish…The Lummi have done what they can to bring the salmon back.”

To Learn more about The Lummi visit Tribalpedia

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