The Northwest Tribes, the Boldt Decision, and the Recognition of Fishing Rights
- PUBLISHED: January 2024
- SUBJECT LISTING: Native American and Indigenous Studies, Pacific Northwest / History, History / American History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 296 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 30 b&w illus., 5 maps
- ISBN: 9780295752723
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In 1974, Judge George Boldt issued a ruling that affirmed the fishing rights and tribal sovereignty of Native nations in Washington State. The Boldt Decision transformed Indigenous law and resource management across the United States and beyond. Like Brown v. Board of Education, the case also brought about far-reaching societal changes, reinforcing tribal sovereignty and remedying decades of injustice. Eminent legal historian and tribal advocate Charles Wilkinson tells the dramatic story of the Boldt Decision against the backdrop of salmon’s central place in the cultures and economies of the Pacific Northwest. In the 1960s, Native people reasserted their fishing rights as delineated in nineteenth-century treaties. In response, state officials worked with non-Indian commercial and sport fishing interests to forcefully—and often violently—oppose Native actions. These "fish wars" spurred twenty tribes and the US government to file suit in federal court. Moved by the testimony of tribal leaders and other experts, Boldt pointedly waited until Lincoln’s birthday to hand down a decision recognizing the tribes’ right to half of the state’s fish. The case’s long aftermath led from the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Boldt’s opinion to collaborative management of the harvest of salmon and other marine resources. Expert and compelling, Treaty Justice weaves personalities and local detail into the definitive account of one of the twentieth century’s most important civil rights cases.
Authors & Contributors
Charles Wilkinson (1941–2023) was the Moses Lasky Professor of Law at the University of Colorado. His fourteen books include Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations and Messages from Frank’s Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way.
"The Boldt Decision was, to say the least, a watershed moment in the history of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. A half century on, Wilkinson has given us the inside story of this critical case: the labor that went into its manifestation, its implications for all who live in these places, and most importantly the Indigenous land, water, and more-than-human relations that are at its core. A must-read."- Coll Thrush, author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
"This book illuminates more than the law and issues of tribal sovereignty during the Northwest Fishing Wars but how the voices of Native People elevate and inspire justice for all life. Charles Wilkinson, with all his eloquence and empathy, intelligence and passion, brings us into an understanding of why the legal rights and treaties of Indigenous People must be honored, maintained, and fought for in the name of dignity, while protecting cultural knowledge held deep within their enduring relationships within their own home ground. Treaty Justice is a final testament to all that this beloved writer of the American West and Indian histories gave his life to: love and justice."- Terry Tempest Williams, Writer-in-Residence at the Harvard Divinity School
"Charles Wilkinson was intimately involved in tribal treaty fishing rights by writing about this issue for many years. He was a legal expert and personally involved right up to the time that he sadly passed away."- John Echohawk, Executive Director, Native American Rights Fund
"The annual salmon run is one of the wonders of the world and central to the cultures and economies of the Native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Treaty Justice offers an authoritative account of the ground-breaking Boldt decision that restored fishing rights to "the Salmon people." Wilkinson’s clear and compelling narrative traces the long, winding road that led to this foundational court case and explores how it continues to sustain Native communities today."- Claudio Saunt, author of Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory
"Charles Wilkinson has done it again. With unmatched familiarity and command, he adds another essential volume to the amazing history of Indigenous activism and legal advocacy that has made the Northwest such a vibrant region for Native rights and power. While much more remains to be done to affirm the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty in American legal institutions, Wilkinson's insights, vision, and legacy offer both guidance and inspiration."- Ned Blackhawk, author of The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History
"Charles Wilkinson has left us with a gift of great knowledge, just as the tribal elders he speaks of gave to us. His dedicated research will help present and future generations understand the cultural, political and legal resilience of the Boldt Decision. This book honors all those who fought for treaty fishing rights, the ancient traditions of the Northwest salmon people and their right to co-manage their fisheries as sovereign government."- Leonard Forsman, Chairman, Suquamish Tribe and ATNI President