News Release

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Youth Leadership Council 

In a letter organized by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council, Native youth from 10 Northwest tribes have called on President Biden to remove dams on the lower Snake River to save salmon from extinction and protect Native ways of life for generations to come.

“America made a deal and promised that we would be able to fish forever,” the youth, aged 9 to 18, wrote in a letter to the White House. “We can’t fish if there aren’t any salmon left.”

The youth are asking the president for a video call to address their concerns. They include members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Yakama Nation; Blackfeet Nation; Suquamish Tribe; Makah Tribe; Puyallup Tribe of Indians; Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe; Nez Perce Tribe; Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation.

A Change.org petition has been launched to support the Native youth effort.

“Northwest salmon will go extinct if leaders don’t act—and with the salmon, our ways of life as Salmon People,” said Nizhoni Toledo, cultural ambassador and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council. “We refuse to let that happen, for our peoples today, tomorrow, and generations to come.”

The letter follows a recent statement from Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) committing to a comprehensive solution for saving salmon in the region that we believe must include removal of the Snake River dams. Earlier this year, Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R) put forth a framework for a comprehensive approach to removing the four lower Snake River dams that addresses salmon, Tribal, agricultural and energy needs. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) has endorsed that approach.

“Momentum is building, so we cannot let up,” said Keyen Singer, member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Youth Leadership Council. “We need more voices from across the country to call on the Biden administration to help save salmon and our cultures. We’ve been asked to wait for decades, but salmon are dying. We need action, and we demand it now.”

The full text of the letter to President Biden follows.

NATIVE YOUTH ARE CALLING ON LEADERSHIP TO HONOR COMMITMENTS AND PROTECT THEIR FUTURE

President Biden,

The Native American youth in our country need your help. When you were elected we had hope that things in this country might change and that fish, animals, waters, and forests would be protected. Now we have something to ask you.

Our salmon are disappearing too quickly, and we can’t wait for many more years to help them.

Our elders tell us about a time when there was more salmon than our people could even eat. There was a time when no one in our tribe had to worry about whether we had enough fish to feed everyone. But today, there is less salmon and even their size is so much smaller than before. This is important.

Salmon aren’t just a food, they are part of our way of life. In our language we are “Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum” (salmon people). “Wy-kan-ish” (salmon) are important for our sacred life renewal ceremonies, our daily food, and for our economy. The salmon that swim from the “Naxiyam Wana” (Snake River) and “Nchi’-Wana” (Columbia River), into the Pacific Ocean, are family to us “Wy-kan-ush naymuma” (our salmon relatives). They’re our relatives and losing them hurts. Climate change is making it hard for them to survive, the rivers are too warm and polluted. And dams are blocking them from migrating. For our tribes, there is one way that you and your friends in Congress can help. Remove the lower dams on the Snake River and let our river flow free, our sacred river “Naxiyam Wana” (the Snake River). It’s the best way to make sure we have salmon and someday, our kids have salmon. In the Northwest, we are all salmon people and we must honor “Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit” (the Spirit of the Salmon).

America made a deal and promised that we would be able to fish forever. We can’t fish if there aren’t any salmon left.

Something must be done to save our salmon and we are counting on you to help us. We are asking for a moment of your time and want to speak to you about our future. Please let us know by July 30th when you are free to talk with us on a video call.

We need our leaders to step up and protect the future for Native youth. 

Latis Nowland, 17
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Bryson Spino, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Gorgie Jones Hoisington, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Nizhoni Toledo, 17
Confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Muriel Hones Hoisington, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Chris Minthorn, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Lindsey Pasena-Littlesky, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Izabelle Sigo, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Keyen Singer, 17
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Summer Wildbill, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Alyric Redcrane, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

JaeDean Looney, 16
Yakama Nation

Lillian Watchman, 13
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Ella Stewart, 14
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Siddalee Baker, 14
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Bryson Redcrane, 14
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Waptas Brockie, 13
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Sunhawk Thomas, 14
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Sky Smith, 15
Yakama Nation

Alayna Bevis, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Elsie McKay, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Sennia Pacheco, 16
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Joelle “Laxyx” Jones, 15
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Ivan Everybodytalksabout, 15
Blackfeet Nation

Cissē Trawally, 13
Suquamish Tribe

Ibrahim Trawally, 15
Suquamish Tribe

Koebyn Purser, 14
Suquamish Tribe

Clinton Bain, 18
Makah Tribe

Roger Bain Jr., 13
Makah Tribe

Raymond Bain, 11
Makah Tribe

Paris Horjesi, 17
Puyallup Tribe of Indians

KaTyas Doherty, 7
Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Kamaili, 14
Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

Leilani Penney, 9
Nez Perce Tribe

Twilia Moses, 9
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Natalia Bisbee, 9
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Ariana Perez, 15
Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Tsiewtsitsa Jones, 15
Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Teagan Larkin, 16
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation

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