Save the Salmon. It’s a phrase that we are hearing with an alarming regularity. In Vancouver Washington, on a cold, wet and windy November day, we heard many of the reasons why.
Roxanne White – a member of the Yakama Nation – hosted a rally on the banks of the Columbia to give voice to the importance of this issue. Her tribe is looking for accountability for recent events that have added extra burden onto these troubled waters.
In their traditional language, the Yakama know the River as the Nch’í Waná and see protecting her and the Núsux (Salmon) as a matter of survival.
The Columbia Salmon and Trout were already struggling. Dams, overfishing and polluted waters are just three examples of human activity that have had a devastating impact on the rivers fish life.
Dams, for instance, have prevented access to at least 55% of the natural spawning grounds for the River fish. The Columbia is also one of the most consistently overfished bodies of water in the United States according to the Pacific Fishery Management Council.
In 2014 the Columbia River Keeper’s identified many of the major pollutants in the River. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) which are industrial products or chemicals that were banned as long ago as 1979 still contaminate our rivers.
High levels of these were detected in the Columbia at a concentration 27,000% above levels the EPA considers safe for unrestricted consumption. Mercury levels were at a level over 300% EPA safe level. Also present were heavy metals such as chromium and lead as well as Endochrine disrupting toxic flame retardants.
Moreover, we learned, it’s the wanton indifference to the cycle of life that hurts the most. This was never more true than with the events of the 5 and 25th of October which prompted this gathering.
On the 5th half a million gallons of feces, urine and detergent-rich laundry waste was released into the Columbia River. 20 days later, another 100,000 gallons of raw sewage was released in a mere 15 minutes.
This is part of a cycle that has affected the river over a long time. JoDe Goudy – Chairman of the Yakama Nation – asked for greater regulation and larger consequences for those that break the rules. Paul Cheoketen – Saanich Tribe – said that the decisions are being made by people who didn’t understand the cycle of life.
The message was that these issues affect all of us. “We’re all family, we’re all one people,” Roxanne White told the crowd.