Ages ago, a woman [of the Raven House] was lost in the forest. she was high class and knew how to take care of herself. She prayed constantly and made offerings, although she had almost nothing. Just when she thought she would die, she received a great gift, one that she brought into the house. It was late when she came upon a stream in the woods. A full moon shone on the water and allowed her to see many salmon swimming there. Theses salmon saved her from starving. The next day, she followed the stream to the shore and discovered where she was. – Keepers of the Totem.
The Columbia River is one of the largest rivers running across seven states. This magnificent natural landscape stretches 200 miles north and connect across the Continental Divide in America and the Selkrik Mountains- a range of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia.
The Columbia River continues flowing south within the United States through the Columbia Plateau’s massive lava flow connecting with the Snake River where it finally flows within the Pacific Ocean. The website for the Center for Columbia History states the Columbia River Basin includes a diverse ecosystem. From its hot-humid temperate rainforest, like the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon to the semi-arid Columbia Plateau in Washington State.
According to the North Pacific Commission website, on October of 1971 a study on information on the Columbia River Salmon Run and Fisheries conducted by Korn of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said, the construction of dams on the Columbia River increases the amount of pollution run-off into the river, ecologically changing the freshwater environment.
To help alleviate pollution run-off the United States spent large amounts of money constructing fish protective devices and artificial facilities. The U.S. spent over 182 million dollars constructing fish-ways and fish transportation facilities at large dams on the Columbia River. However, the 182 million dollars spent does not include the annual cost of operation and maintenance.
The U.S. spent over 2 million dollars creating hatcheries, artificially producing juvenile salmon to be release back into the Columbia.
“Spring Chinook [Salmon] produced in the upper Columbia River must pass four to nine dams to the ocean as juveniles and when returning upstream as adults to spawn,” said Korn.
According to a study conducted by Korn, test have shown that the dams turbines kill approximately 11 percent of juvenile salmon that pass through. In addition to the hostile conditions facing their environment the salmon face the potential of contracting Nitrogen Gas Bubble Disease, or Gas Bubble Disease (GBD).
Supersaturation is caused when the atmospheric pressure of the water changes severely, because of the organic (i.e. waterfalls) or inorganic (i.e. fabricated dams) elements. Theses changes may cause salmon to contract GBD due to the extreme heat change in the water and have sever consequences.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, salmon that contract GBD often exhibit loss of equilibrium, abnormal buoyancy, blindness, and other major symptoms including death.
The study on The Evolution of the effects of the dissolved gas supersaturation on fish and invertebrates downstream from Bonneville Dam conducted by Toner, M.A. and Dawley, E.M. said, any salmon exposed to total dissolved gas saturation lower than 120 percent and for short term showed minimal signs of GBD, while studies conducted by Johnson, E.L. et. al. found that salmon exposed to 125.5 percent of Total Dissolved Gas Saturation in small amounts have a higher exposure rate to GBD, and can pose sever effects on the reproductive characteristics of Adult Female Chinook Salmon.
A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia by Blaine Harden said, the United States constructed at least two dams that prevented the salmon from completing their migration, because the engineers did not construct fish ladders within the dams. All salmon in the Columbia from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Chief Joseph Dam disappeared.
For centuries the Columbia River flowed freely and Native Americans took refuge in the fact that the river provided them with a beautiful landscape and enough food to survive year round. For Native Americas salmons are not just a source of food, it is their livelihood, their tradition, and a part of their spirituality.
According to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Native Americans lived in the Columbia River Basin for thousand of years. Prior to the European settlement the salmon migration in the Columbia River ranged from 11 to 16 million fish annually.
In 1855 the Columbia River Tribes signed treaties with the United States’ Government allowing the ceding of their land, but these tribes retained certain rights to their land, and in return for their land and resources the United States Government made certain promises to the tribes: Protection for Native Americans from attack, Health Care, Education, etc… 1855 Treaty.
Overtime, the United Federal, State, and Local Government encroached upon the 1855 treaty, reducing the salmon population when building the Dallas Dam in 1957 submerging the Celilo Falls, and flooding the fishing grounds.
According to the National Library of Medicine, dietary changes caused by the destruction the the tribes fishing grounds lead to the rise of diseases like diabetes.