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Rallying for salmon with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe at the Idaho Capitol

Posted at 5:50 PM, Nov 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-21 18:43:24-05

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribe has relied on salmon since before Lewis & Clark made their first expedition out west.

"That was one of the main sources of survival for our people and it was just like the buffalo," said elected tribal leader Nathan Small. "We had the luxury of having both buffalo and salmon to help our people."

But the salmon don't make it back to Idaho like they used to and 30 years ago the tribe fought to get sockeye salmon listed on the endangered species list and they did, but it hasn't changed the numbers.

"It’s the dams of course it is nothing else," said Small. "They have proven that they are killers when the fish go down and it is proven that they kill fish on the way back up."

Salmon have to navigate through eight dams from the ocean through the Columbia River and Snake River to make it back to Idaho to spawn and this year there has been a shift in momentum with proposals and plans being made to look at breaching four dams on the lower Snake River.

On Saturday, dozens of people joined the tribe to voice their concerns for the salmon and these vigils happened in Boise, Sun Valley, Oregon and Washington.

"I started fishing salmon in 1938 that was about the time they blew out Sunbeam Dam," said William Platts a fish biologist and angler who used to work for the Idaho Fish and Game. "It was big things that took out salmon and it is going to take big things to bring them back."

The vigils in Idaho were organized by the Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United and the Sierra Club.

Here is our story from Friday that has more information on the latest developments including Representative Simpson's proposal to breach the dams, what the Biden Administration is doing and the plans by Washington politicians to come up with a plan of action by next summer.

Advocated for the salmon don't think these fish have a chance if the dams remain.

"Unless we do those big things I don’t see salmon holding on with climate change coming on as fast as it is," said Platts.

As for the tribe, they will continue to fight in an effort to restore salmon to abundance and see these culturally important fish return to Idaho.

"We were pretty healthy back in the day until the coming of the white people," said Small. "We survived all of that, but we have never ever stopped doing what we have always been doing."