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Empty Nets

Indians, Dams, and the Columbia River

Second Edition

Roberta Ulrich

Culture and Environment in the Pacific West

6 × 9 inches. B&W photographs. Index. 264 pages.

2007. ISBN 978-0-87071-188-6. Paperback, $19.95.

Empty Nets is a disturbing history of broken promises and justice delayed. It chronicles the Columbia River Indians' fight to maintain their livelihood and culture in the face of an indifferent federal bureaucracy and hostile state governments.

1n 1939, the U.S. Government promised to provide Columbia River Indians with replacements for traditional fishing sites flooded in the backwater of the Bonneville Dam. Roberta Ulrich recounts the Indians' decades-long struggle, in the courts and on the river, to persuade the government to keep its promise.

From the beginning, the battle was intertwined with the tribes’ larger effort to assert treaty-guaranteed fishing rights. Ulrich deftly examines a host of other issues—including declining salmon runs, industrial development, tribal self-government, and recreation—that became enmeshed in the tribes’ pursuit of justice. Her broad and incisive account ranges from descriptions of the dam’s disastrous effects on a salmon-dependent culture to portraits of the plights of individual Indian families. Descendants of those to whom the promise was made and activists who have spent their lives working to acquire the sites reveal the remarkable patience and resilience of the Columbia River Indians.

As Ulrich notes in a new epilogue to Empty Nets, the story continues to the present. With most of the replacement fishing sites now completed, the government’s promise will finally be fulfilled in this new century.

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