When Colville tribal fisheries employees approached their purse seine boat, The Dream Catcher, on July 14 they were shocked at what they found: The words KKK and White Power had been scrawled across the boat, which also had been burglarized and vandalized.
“There were a number of things stolen. They cut the purse line and did a little bit of damage to it,” Mark Gauthier of the Upper Columbia United Tribes told Native News Online. A purse seine is a fishing net that is pulled shut by way of a drawstring-type cord.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, but one that has particularly confounded local authorities, given that the Dream Catcher’s function is merely to collect Chinook salmon brood stock for Chief Joseph Hatchery on the Columbia River in Washington. The hatchery releases nearly three million salmon yearlings each year, and sport fishermen eventually harvest more of those fish than do tribal members.
The boat does provide a selective harvest of fish for the Colville Reservation and to a lesser degree other tribes farther upstream, including the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel and Kootenai Tribe of Idaho. Only those fish produced in the hatchery are used for consumption. All natural-born, so-called wild salmon will either be taken for brood stock in the hatchery or be released to spawn naturally.
The investigation is still underway, and Colville Tribes officials said they’d prefer not to comment until they have some answers.
“It’s pretty disturbing but hard to comment on till the investigation is completed,” said Tribal Chairman Jim Boyd.
The boat was not severely damaged, and fishery operations were able to carry on that same morning.
The Colville Tribes have offered a reward of $2,500 for information about the vandalism that leads to an arrest. In addition, local businessmen are contributing to an even larger reward, the tribes said in a media release. No information is yet available from the Tribal Police Department, which is conducting the investigation.
Anyone with information is urged contact tribal police at 509-634-2472.