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An existential threat to Northwest tribes

Alyssa Macy joins the show to talk about how salmon are on the brink of extinction and what that means for tribal people. Correspondent Carina Dominguez has more on how COVID-19 is affecting tribal casinos. Plus Meghan Sullivan talks with us about one women who is showcasing Inupiaq culture on social media.
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A report released today names the top 10 endangered rivers. Number One is the Snake River. Once the largest salmon producer in the Columbia River Basin, today its salmon runs are at the brink of extinction. The loss of salmon is an existential threat to Northwest tribes that depend on the fish for their cultures and identities. Alyssa Macy breaks this down for us. From the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, she is the CEO of Washington Environmental Council. 

Tribal gaming revenues have an economic impact that reach far beyond reservation boundaries. Correspondent Carina Dominguez covers the impact the virus is having on casinos and the communities they fund.

And for the last year, many people have dealt with boredom since having to stay home due to the pandemic. Meghan Sullivan joins the show to tell us about how one woman found a way to cure her boredom and in the process become a social media star. Read Meghan's story 'TikTok stardom, Inupiaq style' on our website.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Arizona are making spending recommendations for tribal governments. 
  • Better cell phone service is coming to the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. 
  • The American Indian Science and Engineering Society wraps up its Leadership Summit which took place virtually. 
  • A Zoom class where students are building their first doll made from animal hide. 

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Alyssa Macy: 

"American Rivers does a report annually where they look at endangered rivers across the country. And there's a couple of factors that they're taken into account. One is the magnitude of the threat. The second is a significance of the river to the people and to nature. And the third piece that they look at as a critical decision point. So the Snake river has landed as the number one most endangered river on this report for the fact that the salmon runs in the lower Snake river are getting close to extinction."

"We know as Native peoples here in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the entire West coast region, like salmon is not just important to the tribes along the Columbia river and the Snake river. So important to tribes throughout this entire region, all the way up to Alaska, all the way down to California as part of our identity, as part of our subsistence. And certainly fishing is a part of our treaty rights that we have secured hundreds of years ago. So this river has been named because of the threat of extinction because of its significance to tribal people, to the economy, to the region. And also the fact that we have an opportunity right now here in front of us to take bold action to address what the Snake river is facing right now."

"So there are four dams on the lower Snake river. What they have done by damming up the river is to basically prevent the free flow of water in the river. Salmon need to go up river to spawn. They need to be able to travel. There has been millions and millions and millions of dollars spent on fish passage, ways for fish to sort of get around these dams that are that along the river. It has not been successful. Salmon numbers continue to decline."

"So what we're looking at now is really how do we address this particular issue? What happens to the water that backs up behind the rivers? Well, it gets warmer. That is not something that helps salmon. It also increases the chance of things like algae growing. It changes the temperature. It changes the ability for fish to really be successful in returning and spawning and being a part of an ecosystem in the way that they are. So what we're looking to do and a part of proposing along with representative Simpson from Idaho is to look for a comprehensive solution to this issue. This includes a serious conversation about breaching or removing the four dams on the lower Snake river."

"I think where folks get afraid is when we talk about reaching a dam or moving a dam. That kind of gets everybody's attention, right? Representative Simpson has put forward a $33.5 billion proposal that doesn't just look at the removal of the stamps. This also looks at how do we replace the energy that is being generated by these dams. So what is the alternative energy source that we have to create?"

"So this is a really exciting opportunity to basically invest in energy that's produced in the region. To look at the ways that we do commerce in the region, like how will goods get support? That's a big piece of it. How does agriculture play into this? How does recreation and tourism play into this? So his proposal is not just looking at one piece, it's a comprehensive proposal to look at everything that salmon touches."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for the Indian Country Today Newscast. Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7

Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a former Stanford Rebele Fellow turned freelance journalist for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @mfatesully

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