CASCADE LOCKS, Oregon - Rebeccah Winnier’s father had a well-worn saying: “Daughter, when the fish are here, you’ve got to fish them.”
So the indigenous, 40-year-old fisherwoman heeds his advice when salmon make their annual return to spawn along the Columbia River, a spectacular feat of nature that slices a gorge through the Cascade Mountains on the border of Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.
But as a poor fishing season ends early, Winnier and other indigenous fishermen find their troubles compounded as freight trains block river access and coal dust contaminates the air.
It has not been a good year for members of the Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation, whose fishing rights are protected under an 1855 treaty between Native American tribes and Washington state, which did not honour the terms.
Their plight mirrors the struggle of many indigenous people around the globe, as native groups face ever greater encroachment from governments and companies seeking access to the land they occupy or its valuable resources.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Natives fished the waters in an act of civil disobedience. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour in 1979 and confirmed their right to harvest salmon and help manage fishery policy.
But as Native Americans face off against the energy industry, experts say their rights are far from secure.
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