Treaty Justice: The Northwest Tribes, the Boldt Decision, and the Recognition of Fishing Rights

Univ. of Washington. Jan. 2024. 296p. ISBN 9780295752723. $34.95. LAW
This book by Wilkinson (Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations), who died in 2023, is a deeply sympathetic account of saving wild salmon. Indigenous peoples in Washington state had been responsibly reliant on salmon fishing for food and social status for more than 100 years. But when the state promoted the needs of the commercial salmon industry over the needs of the Indigenous nations, it resulted in the fishing wars and severe salmon depletion of the 1970s. The book begins with the ancestors of contemporary Pacific Northwest tribes, the original settlers of northern Washington. Decimated by disease transmitted by explorers, then marginalized by the United States, the tribes nevertheless clung to their traditions. Wilkinson describes the rushed 1854 treaty that allocated Indigenous people in Washington a share of fishing rights, a status that Native tribes had to reassert in the 1960s. The United States and 20 tribes, pushed by tribal elders and counsel, sued Washington state in federal court to reinforce the fishing rights of Indigenous peoples and won, in 1974, a decision granting the tribes collectively a 50-percent share of the wild salmon catch in the state. Wilkinson does an excellent job of explaining the factual basis that supported this decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court later upheld and which impacted Indigenous law and resource management across the United States.
VERDICT Readers interested in the history of Indigenous peoples, the Pacific Northwest, and legal battles will enjoy this book.
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