Hatcheries: Helpful or Harmful?

By Bianca T. Esposito, NWNL Research Intern
(Edited by Alison Jones, NWNL Director)

NWNL research intern Bianca T. Esposito is a senior at Syracuse University studying Biology and minoring in Economics. Her research focuses primarily on how watershed degradation affects biodiversity.

Salmon Fish Ladder.jpgFigure 1. Salmon utilizing a manmade fish ladder to bypass a dam in their quest for migration. (Creative Commons)

“Elders still tell stories about the tears tribal fishermen shed as they watched salmon throwing themselves against the newly constructed Grand Coulee Dam.”
-John Sorois, Coordinator of Upper Columbia United Tribes

What are the impacts of hatchery and why do we need them? Hatcheries were created in the late 1800’s to reduce the decline of fish populations caused by hydroelectric dam development. Hatcheries (Figure 2) are part of a fish farming system that produces artificial populations of anadromous fish for future release into the wild. Upon release, these fish enter a freshwater location, specifically a tributary, with no dam to bypass on their way to and from the ocean. Anadromous fish, such as salmon, white sturgeon and lamprey spend most of their life at sea, but return to their native tributaries in freshwater to spawn. Once anadromous fish spawn, they die off and the life cycle is continued to be carried out by the next generation of juveniles. Since returning to their native breeding grounds is a necessity for anadromous fish, hatchery-raised fish released into tributaries without dams is one way to combat this impediment of migration that dams have created.

In this blog, we will look at hatcheries as they relate to the declining salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin.

Besides hatcheries, another way for salmon to bypass the dams constructed along the Columbia River Basin is with the use of fish ladders or fish passages built on the dams (Figures 1 and 3). However, these methods can be harmful to the salmon. Fish ladders require that salmon climb up many platforms to access the reservoir on the other side of the dam. There is evidence that supports claims of an increased rate of exhaustion in salmon utilizing the ladder. Ultimately this leads to avoidance of the ladder and decreased migration rates of salmon.

Jones_070623_WA_1904.jpgFish ladder at Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River

Hatcheries are an attempt to overcome this low success rate of released salmon returning to tributaries. Stock transfers are one hatchery approach whereby salmon eggs are incubated and hatched in one part of the basin and then shipped to streams all over for release. This method of stock transfer is used to re-populate areas in which salmon populations are declining, or in places they no longer inhabit. However, because of the changes in location, these farmed salmon have trouble returning to the reassigned tributary, since  instinctively they would return to their birth stream.

Another major problem hatcheries face is that once artificially-grown salmon are released, they still have to face the same problems that confront wild salmon. These challenges include water pollution, degraded habitats, high water temperatures, predators and overfishing. However, the salmon who mature on the farm have no prior experience on how to handle these threats, which is one reason they face very low survival rates. Overall, these artificial salmon are not considered as “fit” for survival, nor do they have the ability to adapt to the environment in which they are released because they grew up on a farm.

USFWS Fish Transfer to Little White Salmon NFH (19239836984).jpgFigure 2. The raceways where salmon are kept at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington State. (Creative Commons)

In the 1980’s fisheries moved towards a more “ecosystem-management” approach. They began conserving wild, naturally spawning stocks, as well as hatchery-bred fish. Yet, the overbearing problem with this method was that if hatchery-bred fish were to mate with wild fish, it could cause genetic and ecological damage.

A shift has been made towards utilizing “supplementation facilities”, a more natural, albeit artificial environment for raising the fish that includes shade, rocks, sand, and various debris typical of their natural habitat. This natural approach allows the salmon somewhat “ready” for the wild. The idea behind this technique is that after the salmon are released into streams and spend time in the ocean, they know to return to that tributary to spawn, instead of the hatchery. While this method has increased the number of adult salmon returning to spawn, it still bears the negative possibility of genetically compromising the remaining gene pool of the wild fish.

Besides the genetic problems faced with breeding artificial salmon alongside with wild salmon, breeding solely within hatcheries can also ultimately lead to inbreeding depression. This results in the salmon having a reduced biological fitness that limits their survival due to breeding related individuals. Additionally, artificial selection and genetic modification by fish farms can also cause reduced fitness in reproductive success, swimming endurance and predator avoidance. Another reason farmed salmon are not as “fit” as wild salmon is due to the treatment they receive in the hatchery. The food salmon are fed is not healthy for them – its main purpose is to make them grow faster. This forced rapid growth can lead to numerous health problems.

Diseases experienced in fish farms are also experienced in the wild. They occur naturally and are caused by pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. What exacerbates disease in a fish farm is overcrowding, which makes it fairly easy for the disease to spread throughout the hatchery. Specifically with viral infections, those who may not show symptoms of disease can be carriers of the virus and transmit further, whether in the farm or after their release into the wild. Consequently, once they are transported and deposited across river basins to be released, these diseases then go on to affect wild salmon with no immunity to the disease they have acquired. This decline in wild salmon has also caused declining effects in their predator populations, such as bears, orcas and eagles.

John Day Dam Fish Ladder.jpg Figure 3. The fish ladder at John Day Dam in Washington State. (Creative Commons)

Along with all the negatives that come with farm fish, the high production from hatcheries eliminates the need to regulate commercial and recreational harvest. So, because of the production from hatcheries, overfishing continues. Hatcheries have become a main source of economic wealth because they provide for the commercial harvests, as well as local harvests. A permanent and sustainable solution to combat the decline of wild salmon populations remains to be found. This problem continues to revolve around the construction and use of hydroelectric dams which provide the main source for electricity in the region; greatly reduce flood risks; and store water for drinking and irrigation.

The concept that hatcheries are compensating for the loss of fish populations caused by human activity is said by some to be like a way to “cover tracks” for past wrongdoings because it does nothing to help the naturally wild salmon at all. Hatcheries are only a temporary solution to combat the decline of the salmon population.

Jones_070615_BC_3097.jpgFish and river steward on the Salmo River

What we really need is an increase of spawning in wild salmon and to ensure that they have a way to survive the dams as they make their way to sea. Reforestation and protection of small spawning streams is one part of the solution. A more permanent, albeit partial, solution would be to find a way to advance the electricity industry reducing the need for hydropower. Until we find a way to make this happen, hatcheries seem to be a helpful way to continue to support the salmon-based livelihoods, as well as human food needs and preferences. Unfortunately, hatcheries do nothing to help the current situation of wild anadromous salmon in the Columbia River Basin.

In April of this year, the Lake Roosevelt Forum in Spokane WA outlined a 3-phase investigation into reintroducing salmon and steelhead to the Upper Columbia River Basin in both the US and Canada. In March 2016, Phase 1 began, dealing with the planning and feasibility of possible reintroduction. The study, expected to be released in 2018, concerns habitat and possible donor stock for reestablishing runs. All work on the studies are mostly complete and are predicted to be suitable for hundreds to thousands, or even millions of salmon. Forty subpopulations of salmon species have been identified and ranked for feasibility, including the Sockeye, Summer/Fall Chinook, Spring Chinook, Coho and Steelhead. The Confederated Tribe of the Colville Reservation stated they are waiting for one last permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Then they can begin the second phase of the decades-long research process using pilot fish release this fall.

Jones_110912_WA_2832-2.jpgChinook hatchery salmon underwater

Phase Two will be the first time salmon have returned to the upper Columbia River Basin in almost 80 years. This blockage came from the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam in the late 1930’s and Chief Joseph Dam in 1955. The Confederation Tribes of the Colville Reservation fish managers plan to truck these salmon around the dam, since constructing a fish ladder would be too costly. Funding currently comes from tribes and federal agencies. Possible additional funding may come from the Environment and Climate Change Canada and the renegotiation of Columbia River Transboundary Treaty.

Renegotiations of the 1964 Columbia River Transboundary Treaty between the United States and Canada is currently underway. The first meeting took place in Washington D.C. on May 29 and 30, 2018. Just weeks ago the U.S. emphasized their stance on continuing careful management of flood risks and providing a reliable and economical power source while recognizing ecosystem concerns. The next meeting will take place in British Columbia on August 15 and 16, 2018. However,  tribes are not pleased with their exclusion from negotiating teams. Tribes excluded consist of the Columbia Basin’s Native American tribes, primarily in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and First Nation tribes in British Columbia, Canada.

Jones_070614_BC_0372.jpgMural of human usage of salmon in British Columbia

NWNL Director’s Addendum re: a just-released study: Aquaculture production of farmed fish is bigger than yields of wild-caught seafood and is growing by about 6% per year, yielding 75 million tons of seafood.  While it is a very resource-efficient way to produce protein and improve global nutrition and food security, concerns are growing about the sustainability of feeding wild “forage fish,” (eg: anchovies, herring and sardines) to farmed fish so they will grow better and faster. These small fish are needed prey for seabirds, marine mammals and larger fish like salmon. A June 14 study suggests soy might be a more sustainable alternative to grinding fishmeal for farmed seafood and livestock.

Bibliography:

Close, David. U.S. Department of Energy, accessed June 5, 18 by BE, website
Northwest Power and Conservation Council, accessed June 12, 18 by BE, website
Animal Ethics, accessed June 12, 18 by BE, website
Aquaculture, accessed June 12, 18 by BE, website
Luyer, Jeremy. PNAS, accessed on June 12, 18 by BE, website
Simon, David. MindBodyGreen, accessed on June 14 by BE, website
Kramer, Becky. The Spokesman-Review, accessed on June 14, 18 by BE, website
Harrison, John. Northwest Power and Conservation Council, accessed on June 14, 18 by BE, website
Schwing, Emily. Northwest News Network, accessed on June 14, 18 by BE, website
Office of the Spokesperson. U.S. Department of State, accessed on June 14, 18 by BE, website
 The Columbia Basin Weekly Fish and Wildlife News Bulletin, accessed on June 14, 18 by BE, website

Unless otherwise noted, all photos © Alison M. Jones.

Celebrating World Wildlife Day!

By Christina Belasco

Today we celebrate World Wildlife Day. Acting to preserve our planet’s treasured biodiversity is more important now than ever. To honor our beloved creatures we share with you all today photos from our African and North American case study watersheds! We can never forget that these animals all depend on healthy, clean fresh water so we must protect our watersheds as well. Each animal, no matter how big or small, plays a critical role in the ecosystem and are all worthy of love and conservation. This reminds us all that no action we take in conservation is too small. We thank local environmental stewards everywhere for standing up for their ecosystems.

Africa:

Jones_150220_K_9931.jpg

Kenya, Maasai Mara National Reserve. Elephants are a flagship species of the Maasai Mara Reserve. They are a key indicator species, and are in danger due to illegal poaching for their ivory.

Jones_060314_TZ_0040.jpg

Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park. An Olive Baboon (papio anubis) eats a kigelia nut in groundwater forest. The baboon’s greatest threats are habitat loss due to deforestation as well as human hunting.

Jones_150221_K_0155.jpg

Kenya, Maasai Mara National Reserve. An Impala Herd grazes at sunset. Impala are an important food source for many predators in the African Savanna, and are a very adaptable species.

TZ-LIO-420.jpg

Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park. A Lioness is perched in an Acacia tree. Lionesses hunt for the pride. These predators of the Savanna are in danger because of habitat loss and poaching.

TZ-WIB-119.jpg

Tanzania: Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The annual Wildebeest migration is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, when over 1.5 million Wildebeest trod in an enormous loop through Tanzania and Kenya.

North America:

Jones_080603_WY_3332.jpg

Columbia River Basin, Greater Yellowstone. The Buffalo was once the great icon of the heartland of the United States, and are sacred to the Native Americans of the plains who relied on Buffalo for centuries as their source of food, material, and ceremony. As the settlers came, the Buffalo was nearly hunted out of existence. Thanks to recent conservation efforts, especially in Yellowstone National Park, this giant creature is making a slow comeback.

jones_110912_wa_2832-2

Washington, Columbia River Basin. Chinook Salmon are critical to river ecosystems in the Northwest. The single most damaging threat to the Salmon are dams, which block their ability to migrate downstream and into the ocean where they need to go to complete their life cycle.

Jones_070804_NJ_7854.jpg

New Jersey, Mountainville (Raritan River Basin). Atlantis fritillary butterfly feeds on the bloom of a bush. Butterfly are not only beautiful, they help pollinate flowers and are a key indicator species.

Jones_111025_LA_3203.jpg

Louisiana, Atchafalaya Basin. The Alligator in the Atchafalaya Basin is a critical predator. It faces a multitude of threats including habitat loss, immense pollution, and human hunting.

Jones_110521NJ_9104.jpg

New Jersey, Upper Raritan River Basin. Honeybee populations all over the world are facing an enormous crisis due to pesticide spraying and climate change.

Let Salmon Migrate Up the Snake River Again

Jones_070623_WA_1829_M.jpg

Fish ladder in a Columbia River Dam. Alison Jones/NWNL

By Alison Jones, NWNL Executive Director

Mitigation against impacts on salmon populations by the Columbia/Snake River dams has been deemed insufficient.  Thus, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) has asked the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for breaching, bypassing, or removing 14 Federal dams – including the 4 Lower Snake River Dams.  These agencies are now accepting public comments.  Given drastic declines of salmon, NWNL and many others who agree that avian predation management and “safety-net” hatcheries don’t do enough are sending in comments.  (More background info at www.crso.info.)

TO COMMENT on the Snake River Dams (by Feb. 7): Email comment@crso.info. Call 800-290-5033. Or mail letters to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NW Div., Attn: CRSO EIS, P.O. Box 2870, Portland, OR 97208-2870.

Our NWNL Comment on the 4 Lower Snake River Dams sent to the US Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and Bureau of Reclamation:

For 10 years No Water No Life® has studied freshwater issues in the Columbia River Basin. We’ve focused on the Lower 4 Snake River Dams since 2014. During our 4-week Snake River Expedition, NWNL interviewed 17 scientists, fishermen, commercial farmers, USF&W staff, hatchery and dam operators, power companies, historians, the Port of Lewiston Manager and the Nez Perce Dept. of Fisheries. (Our 2014 Snake River itinerary)

After 3 follow-up visits to the Snake River Basin and continued research, No Water No Life asks you to breach, bypass or remove the Lower 4 Snake River dams. Below are the Q & A’s that informed our conclusion:

 Who cares about the future of the Lower 4 Snake River dams?  Many people – in and beyond the Columbia River Basin – are concerned. So far, over 250,000 taxpayer advocates have delivered comments supporting wild salmon and healthy rivers, according to Save our Wild Salmon. That’s a ¼ million people who’ve spoken out on meaningful, cost-effective salmon restoration that could occur with the removal of the 4 costly dams on the lower Snake River.

Jones_150521_WA_2491.jpg

Lower Granite Dam on Snake River’s Lake Bryan. Alison Jones/NWNL

Is there a real threat if nothing changes? Yes. The Endangered Species Coalition put Snake River Chinook on its top “Top Ten” list last month. In his examination of the Port of Lewiston’s diminishing role, Linwood Leahy notes we are pushing the salmon to extinction, even though they were here long before homo sapiens.

Is this plea just for salmon? No. Removing the Lower 4 Snake River dams will aid recovery of wild salmon, orca whales, freely-flowing rivers and forests enriched by remains of spawned salmon carrying ocean nutrients upstream. Nature built a fine web where species and ecosystems connect in ways we will probably never fully understand – but must respect. Loss of one species affects the entire trophic cascade of an ecosystem – be it the loss of predator species (e.g., lion or wolves) or the bottom of the food chain (e.g., herring or krill).

Jones_070623_WA_1913.jpg

Salmon hatchery in Columbia/Snake River System. Alison Jones/NWNL

The unique and already-endangered orcas (aka Southern Resident killer whales) are highly susceptible to declines of Snake River salmon, per The Orca Network. The Center for Whale Research claims that salmon restoration must “include the Fraser, Skagit and Columbia/Snake Rivers, the key sources that provide the wild salmon that the whales need to survive.”

How do the dams impact the salmon? Fish biologists agree that dams have decreased wild fish populations by making it more difficult for juvenile and adults to migrate to and from the ocean. Dams become salmon-killers each summer as water temperatures become lethally hot in slow-moving, open reservoirs. Even a 4-degree increase can kill thousands of fish.  When the dams go, wild salmon can again access over 5,000 miles of pristine, high-elevation habitat which is much cooler for salmon in this warming world.  Dam removal is agreed to be the single most effective means to restore populations of wild salmon, steelhead and Pacific Lamprey. It will also restore U. S. fishing industry jobs.

Does the Pacific NW need these 4 Snake River Dams for hydro energy? No. These outdated dams produce only 3% of the region’s power – and only during spring run-off, when demand is low. The electricity the dams produce can be replaced by affordable, carbon-free energy alternatives. Local wind energy has exploded and easily exceeds the capacity of the dams — by 3.4 times as much in the Pacific Northwest.  On some days the dam authorities can’t give away the little power they generate.  In light of that, it is wrong that taxpayers support exorbitant costs of maintaining these days (estimated at $133.6 million for 2015).

Jones_150519_WA_2325.jpg

Little Goose Lock and Dam on the Snake River. Alison Jones/NWNL

Do farmers or others need the Lower 4 Snake River Dams?  No. Distinct from the Columbia River system, the Snake River barge traffic, enabled by dams, has declined 70% in 20 years. Using the Corps of Engineers’ categorization, the Snake River has been a waterway of “negligible use” for years. There is no longer any containerized, barge shipping of lumber, wood chips, paper or pulse (peas, lentils, garbanzos) from the Snake River or anywhere to the Port of Portland. The only remaining shipping is for non-container commodities, such as wheat from the Palouse, which could be moved solely by truck-to-rail, instead of truck-to-barge. For further data, please feel free to email us (info@nowater-nolife.org) for a copy of “Lower Snake River Freight Transportation: Twenty Years of Continuous Decline” (October 25, 2016 by Linwood Laughy of Kooskia, Idaho).

Jones_150519_WA_2230.jpg

Wheat fields and wind energy in Snake River Basin. Alison Jones/NWNL

Much rail infrastructure is already in place and being expanded in realization that the dams are aging, performing as sediment traps (especially with climate change) and incurring heavy repair costs to prevent crumbling. The needed and smart investment would be a few more “loop rail” terminals with storage for grain. Long term, this will provide very cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly transport. There is a growing movement supporting more rail infrastructure, and even electric rail, in the US to create an interconnected and cleaner energy future.

Jones_140511_WA_6087.jpg

Ritzville WA Train Depot and grain silos in Snake River Basin. Alison Jones/NWNL

We ask you to avoid outdated date, miscalculations and past errors.  We ask you to hire independent, informed experts for their input on the dams’ actual costs and relevance.  We ask you to make the wise environmental and economical choice. Thank you.

Alison M. Jones, Executive Director of No Water No Life®, LLC

 

What are anadromous fish?

Tomorrow is World Fish Migration Day (WFMD). The ancient migration story of fish ascending rivers from oceans to breed is miraculous.  Such fish – called anadromous, from the Greek word  “anadramein” meaning “running upward” – include salmon, steelhead, shad, sturgeon, lamprey in the Pacific Northwest; and shad, sturgeon, alewives and herring along the US East Coast.

USA:  Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ilwaco mural of salmon
USA: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ilwaco mural of salmon

Anadromous fish swim from the sea inland via open rivers to spawn in small headwater tributaries. In so doing, they bring with them marine nutrients that enrich riverine flora, fauna and forests.  After their long journeys back to where they were born, the adult fish release their eggs in cool, forested waters and then die.  Thus, some hail anadromous fish as the greatest parents of all, because the nutrients of their remains nourish the flies and insects that are eaten by newly-hatched smolt.

This month, our NWNL Snake River Expedition is documenting the dynamics of anadromous fish in the Pacific Northwest and the studies of local fish biologists, fishermen, watershed managers and the Nez Perce tribal nation.  Today, NWNL joins them and the world in honoring the ecosystem services and sustenance values provided by anadromous fish.

Canada:  British Columbia, Winlaw, Slocan River Valley, salmon mural
Canada: British Columbia, Winlaw, Slocan River Valley, salmon mural

*Check out 10 (very interesting!) Things You Might Not Know About Migratory Fish.

Our Great Migrators

*NWNL thoughts prior to World Fish Migration Day-5/24.*

Many are unaware of the exquisite sarabande of life personified by our migratory species: anadromous fish, birds, monarch butterflies, dragonflies and others.

Most migratory species are threatened in one form or another during their annual passages by manmade impediments. Today, on expedition along the Snake River, NWNL is following the struggle of the Columbia River migratory salmon, steelhead and lamprey to overcome dams, pollution, warmer streams and other challenges as they seek their traditional spawning grounds. Fish passages at dams and fish hatcheries have helped them avoid extinction, but more help is needed to bring back healthy numbers of salmon.

US: Washington, Columbia River Basin, Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River, bypass for juvenile salmon migrating downstream.

A New 65′ Crack Found in Wanapum Dam: NWNL Reflects on “Saving the Past for the Future”

US:  Washington, Columbia River Basin, Wanapum Dam
Cover of a book on the Wanapum Indians.

Drummers and Dreamers:

Wanapum Indians and the Wanapum Dam

On the Columbia River.

By Alison M. Jones, Director of No Water No Life.
Image
Downstream side of the Wanapum Dam.

On March 1, a 65-foot-long crack was found in the hydroelectric #Wanapum Dam in Grant County WA.  This dam generates over 4 million megawatt hours annually, providing power to over 45,000 local customers and throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Bonneville Power Administration, now investigating the “risk of failure” presented by this crack, has notified residents downstream of possible evacuation and has closed all nearby boat ramps.  (For updates: http://www.grantpud.org/your-pud/media-room/news)  The dam’s initial 50-year operating license was granted in 1955 and extended by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008.  However, that approval came with conditions, including modernization of the facility’s power generation capability.

Image
Columbia River near Vantage WA, upstream of Wanapum Dam.

In 2007 a No Water No Life expedition, following the Columbia River from source to sea, visited Wanapum Dam to add to its documentation of the values and the impacts of hydropower.  The dam is named for the Wanapum Indians whose tule houses along the Columbia River were flooded by the building of the dam.  Respecting the longtime Wanapum residents, the dam also houses the Heritage Center Museum displaying their cultural artifacts and documenting the upstream relocation of the town of Vantage.

The juxtaposition of this large, now-cracked hydrodam and displays of the heritage of Wanapum weavings, moccasins and prayers is a bit ironic.  Perhaps lessons can be gained from the traditional values of these “River People” as we consider the risks presented today by infrastructure, industry, machines and our efforts to control nature.  The words of Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum leader, are shown at the Heritage Center Museum:

Before the arrival of white man, Native Americans believed that all living things were endowed with spirit.  They believed that nature was alive and responsive to their needs for physical and spiritual nourishment.  Wisdom was passed from generation to generation in stories that embraced the spiritual characteristics of coyote, bear and all the animals.  Native Americans were the sensitive guardians of earth and all living things.  The arrival of the fur traders brought a slow and disastrous end to this symbiotic relationship.

Image
Wanapum Moccasins and weaving at the Heritage Center Museum.

In the early 1800’s the Wanapum numbered 2500 to 3000, according to the journals of Lewis and Clark.  Historically, the Wanapum have gathered roots from fields above Ephrata (near Soap Lake) down to the Snake River.  Until 1956 they had permanent winter villages of A-frames made with mats of tule gathered by the riverbanks, that were stowed during summer months.

Image
Sculpture of salmon at the Wanapum Dam.

In the spring the Wanapum went to Soap Lake to gather fruit.  In the summer they fished salmon with 14’ poles, submerged basket traps and torches at night.  While drying and storing their salmon, they ate eel and fresh-water mussels.  In the fall the women dug for roots which they ate raw, cooked or dried.  Into the winter hunted deer, big horn sheep, elk, rabbit and waterfowl.

According to Lenora Seelatsee, their mother was “Earth Woman,” who provided spiritual and physical sustenance and encouraged them to respect nature, peace and cooperation with others. Around 1700 the horse was introduced to this community; and the first impact of Europeans was the introduction of metal and glass beads.  Because the Wanapum never went to war with the U. S., there was never a treaty. Thus, they’ve received no recognition, land titles or money from the US government.

Editor and author of Drummers and Dreamers, Click Relander is the only white man buried in the Wanapum cemetery – an expression of their appreciation for his letters during the dam-building agreement requesting that the Wanapum got housing, electricity and jobs.  The Public Utility Department (PUD) rebuilt their 10 homes and long house.  The US Military still protects the Wanapum cemetery and their root-digging fields per an agreement with the Depart of Energy, downstream at Hanford Nuclear Site.  Seven years ago there were only 65 Wanapum left, according to Susan Parker, a Heritage Center docent.  That community represented 3 or 4 families on the west side of the Columbia River adjacent to military lands across from Priest Rapids.

Image
Transmission lines at the Wanapum Dam.

In 2007 NWNL spoke with Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum “prophet and spiritual guide.” (The Wanapum had no need for a “chief” because the tribe never fought.)  NWNL unfortunately didn’t meet Rex in person because his sister Lenora had died just “three sunrises earlier.”  But in a short phone conversation with NWNL, Rex talked of ongoing Wanapum culture and customs, as he explained that the Wanapum honor their deceased by not using their proper name for one year after their death.  At the end of that year observance, there is a “Give Away” memorial service that bequeaths the belongings of the deceased.

Today Rex continues to disseminate the spirit of #Smowhalla, the first Wanapum prophet and shaman who is remembered for interpreting his dreams and stressing the importance of sharing with others. The museum displays Smowhalla’s words to his people:  “Each one must learn for himself the highest wisdom.  It cannot be taught in words.”

Image
Archival photograph of the Wanapum and their long house, covered with tule mats.

As Smowhalla’s current successor, Rex Buck shared ongoing Wanapum wisdom with NWNL, saying, “We have feeling for all this land and to our past.”  When asked about the cultural resources of his tribe, Rex answered, “They are further and beyond dictionary definition.”  It seems that the Wanapum intertwine cultural resources with natural resources and together both are valued as the Creator’s promise for the future.

Puck Hyah Toot (Johnny Buck) spoke about the Creator’s gifts at the naming of the Wanapum Dam at Public Utilities Department office at Ephrata in May 1955.

Image
Electric transmission towers at Wanapum Dam

The part of the District where we lived the Creator made.  He made Earth.  He spread upon the Earth things for the Indian people so they could live.  He gave them roots and berries, salmon he put in their streams, and caused wild fowl and wild animals to come upon the land.  These were the foods the Indian has enjoyed, good food the Creator had given.  When I think of losing these things, I think I am losing my life!  I do not feel I should get angry or say anything that a dam is being built.  I feel that somehow I and my people will get by as long as we have friends like are here.  The Creator predicted and directed that the light shall fall upon the earth and give warming light to everything upon it.  The sun will brighten and warm the body of the Indian and will preserve that body.  You and I get this living under that light.  If any person does wrong to another race, the Creator will punish that person.  That we believe.

The Wanapum are disappearing. When the dam was built (1959-1963), there were only 5 full-blooded Wanapum.  Now there are about 60 Wanapum enrolled and assimilated into the Yakima Nation.  But even the family of Rex Buck, today’s Wanapum’s prophet, is not full-blooded. Rex’s mother is from Warm Springs, Oregon, and his wife is a Yakima Indian.

Image
“Saving the Past for the Future” – Philosophy of the Wanapum Indian Trust Collection.

Despite this assimilation, diabetes, alcoholism and epidemics, the messages of these “River People” will survive.  But will the natural resources given by their Creator survive?  What risks are engendered when dams crack?  The Grant County PUD’s policy is to “care for the preservation and conservation of the Collection” of Wanapum cultural resources in its Heritage Museum.  Are they also caring for “the preservation and conservation” of our natural resources?

Frank Buck, Rex’s uncle, asked us to share and respect our differing approaches to stewarding water, power, and food needed for all living on shared riverbanks.  On June 2, 1962, at the dedication of Priest Dam downstream of Wanapum Dam, Frank Buck shared this perspective:

I have a few words to express about white people.  You are glad that this Priest Rapids Dam is finished.  You are dedicating it today.  We are very glad to be with you here today.  This power is very important to you.  This power is like food to you.  The water that is making this power provides you all the food you need.  Your power and my power are two different things.  The things that I am showing outside of the teepees (in the village built for the dedication of the dam site), that is the food that we Indians was provided with.  That food will take care of us.  That food makes me strong and healthy.  It is our medicine.  Even what law comes against us, we don’t hold it against you.  We Indians are still friends with you.  You White People, We Indians.  It is our thoughts to go together as one on this Earth.  We will be taken care of.

Image
Maintenance construction at the Wanapum Dam in 2007