Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Living with Nature

Published: July 21, 2009, Author: JayTaber

The two oceanic entries to Washington state’s interior are Cape Flattery in the north, and Cape Disappointment in the south. Inside Cape Flattery lies the Salish Sea, including Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, Hood Canal and Puget Sound. Inside Cape Disappointment lies the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

At the time Lewis and Clark traveled down the Snake into the Columbia, wild salmon traveling up these two rivers annually numbered some sixteen million. Several million more spawned in the rivers emptying into the Salish Sea.

As a result of numerous massive dams built in the 1930s and 1950s, most of the salmon runs passing Cape Disappointment have dwindled or gone extinct. Likewise the runs passing Cape Flattery, due primarily to excessive logging and unconscious urban development.

Added to this challenge for recovery of salmon in the rivers and sea of Washington, is the industrial use of pesticides for agriculture in the eastern interior, and the historical accumulation of PCBs and other petroleum products in the Salish Sea basins. More recently, the leakage of radioactive waste into the Columbia River from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has already affected the genetic makeup of contaminated salmon.

Since environmental awareness within the dominant industrial society first blossomed in the 1970s, small steps have been taken to reverse some of this life-threatening toxic dumping, but the hard work lies ahead. Ironically, the choice now seems to be between flattery and disappointment; the technical fixes have all failed, and the only solution left is the one the indigenous peoples of the region have advocated from the outset–live with nature, not against it.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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