Treaties on trial:|
The Coninuing Controversy Over Northwest Indian Fishing Rights
by Pay G. Cohen
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|Politics and Politicos
by Mathew Behrens
The battle over Northwest Indian fishing rights, though it received international attention more than 20 years ago with the arrests of Dick Gregory and Marlon Brando at "fish-ins," remains a controversial issue whose eventual settlement could seta major precedent for scores of similar conflicts. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which published an earlier account of this problem called Uncommon Controversy, has commissioned another excellent study here, which brings the story up to date.
In the able hands of Dalhousie University professor Tray Cohen, what could have been a study burdened with excessive tables and charts is instead a readable and insightful look at one aspect of North America's dismal treatment of the first nations. She traces the long history of the Indians who currently reside in Washington and Oregon and their intricate relationship with the salmon, a fish that plays a major role in their cultural development.
The book also examines the complex litigation that led to and followed the Boldt decision of 1974. That historic ruling guaranteed Indians the right to harvest in traditional fishing areas and sought to limit the encroachment of sport fishermen and industries, which believe that respect for traditional Indian ways stands in the face of progress and profits.
Perhaps the book's only drawback is its failure to draw some links between the still unresolved salmon issue and similar struggles facing, among others, the Haida in British Columbia and the Navajo at Big Mountain. Despite this, the work stands as a strong challenge to those who feel the worst abuses of indigenous people are behind us. Attitudes may have changed slightly, but our primitive policies remain.