SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Tribe is celebrating a major milestone in their efforts to return Chinook Salmon to the Upper Spokane River.
Salmon conservation and protection is an upstream battle, but for the Spokane Tribe it is worth it.
That sentiment was shared among everyone who gathered on the bank of the Little Spokane River to celebrate the release of 50 adult Summer Chinook Salmon. Barry Moses from the Spokane Tribe said, “As Spokane people, we’re fish people, we’re river people. It’s ironic because none of us had actually seen, I think nobody living has actually seen the salmon run.”
The Spokane Tribe and their partners are trying to change that. This release took place on the Glen Tana Farm, a 1,100-acre plot of land that is under contract to be given to the Spokane Tribe and Washington State Parks for salmon habitat restoration and conservation. Monica Tonasket from the Spokane Tribe said, “For the first time we are going to have two miles of the water. The river here will be used by our tribe to bring salmon back. It’s just so important to the Spokane Tribe and we believe the salmon are going to bring healing to our people.”
However, healing takes time and the loss of salmon in the region is a wound felt over multiple generations.
Conor Giorgi, The Spokane Tribal Fisheries Anadromous Program Manager said that if things go according to plan, salmon could return to the Upper Columbia in just 20 years. Giorgi added, “Bringing salmon back is going to take a lot of work by a lot of people. The tribes already have that underway. They have mapped out the next 20 years through the Phase 2 implementation plan where we research individual fish behavior and their survival as they migrate out from the system and then they migrate back.”
The next step in their reintroduction plan relies on identifying the best options for fish passage through dams that otherwise spell the end of their incredible upstream journey. Giorgi said, “We believe through the research we have already done, that we can have salmon and the benefits that hydropower already provides. Power generation, flood control, irrigation, you name it. We think that salmon are additive to that.”
Once these plans are put into action, the fish that once called these waters home are expected to return. Until then, hope is abundant, and their home waters will be in good hands. Barry Moses said, “Everything that we have that is worth fighting for we have gotta fight for. To lose hope in the river is like losing hope in a family member, losing hope in a friend. You can never lose hope is somebody you love.”
WATCH RELATED: 'Bringing the fish back to their native homes': 150 Chinook salmon released into the Spokane River (August 2022)