History of Columbia River and salmon culture
Columbia River has been an influential geographical phenomenon, especially to the communities living nearby. The Native Americans settled along the Columbia River in massive numbers, to benefit from the fishing opportunity provided by easily obtained salmon. Regions such as The Dalles, the Cascades, Celilo Falls, Kettle Falls and Priest Rapids were great fishing grounds for the people.
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The geographical region was significant, because the exploitation of the fish satisfied the locals’ food necessities. Moreover, the physical feature ultimately became synonymous with the spiritual topography of the Columbia Basin. The communities that inhabited the region were not ethnic entities as the whites, or the Native Americans.
Instead, the fundamental social segments of the area comprised of a hamlet structured around populations of men sharing the same lineage. The society would ebb and stream in and out of the region, albeit periodically.
Current Aboriginal involvement within the river
The traditions of the Native American community are largely influenced by the fishing activity in the Columbia River (Halsing, & Moore, 2008).
Additionally, the locals owe their spiritual allegiance to the “mighty” power in the Columbia River. The salmon fishing activity offered the settlers an opportunity to redeem their physical health, as this was imperative to preserving the community from extinction. Through these economic activities, the Native Americans eventually employed their reliable physical health to exploit the salmon resources, which seasonally subsisted in the river.
The social demographics and movements in the area could not take place without strong relations, and the most effective connections came as a result of intermarriage. A respected spiritual leader too played a pivotal role. A salmon chief entrusted with the duty of overseeing the conformity to cultural values, was engaged from time to time. The Chinooks, Clatsops, Kathlamets, Wahkiakums stayed at the mouth of the water source.
Additionally, the Katskanies and Cowlitzes occupied the upper part of the river. A few miles on the upper region of the river were the Skillutes, Clannarminnamons, Multnomahs, Tillamooks, Quthlapottles, Shotos, Clanninnatas, Cathlahnaquiahs, Cathlacommahtups and Kalamas. And further upstream in the Dalles region, were Wishrams, Cathlakaheckits, Wascos, and Cathlathalas (Keefer, Peery, Jepson, & Stuehrenberg, 2004).
The Dalles geographical region marked the last part occupied by the Chinook speakers. Notably, the Sahaptin language was the language of the settlers at Celilo Falls. Whereas, the Nez Perces exploited the fishery resources in the Snake River, and the Kutenais earned their livelihood from the Kootney River of the Columbia River basin (Levin, 2003).
Cultural importance of the river
The Columbia River is traditionally a cultural place, which the locals highly esteem. For instance, Keefer et al (2004) indicated that renowned spiritual leaders such as Coyote advocated for the effective exploitation and preparation of the salmon for a meal, by the Indian community.
Honea et al (2009) suggested the spiritual leader had the power of making the Columbia River resources of the Salmon easily available for the locals. He reportedly made the huge rocks at the cascades for the settlers to capitalize on in an effort to carry out easy fishing operations. According to Levin (2003), the mechanisms, which the aboriginals used in fishing operations, are a significant component of the organic contraptions of the Columbia. For example, Sanpoils and Nespelems communities build weirs to direct fish into constructed traps or waterways in the cascades, so that the resources would be easily outlined and harvested. At Kettle Falls, Honea et al (2009) indicated a pious locus now flooded in Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, the natives build large frames made of wood, with large willow bags hanging from them, an apparatus that would ease the harvesting of jumping fish. The fish would hit the wooden structure and drop into the bags.
The seasonal changes in environmental conditions, which prompted the salmon in salty pacific to return to the fresh waters of the Columbia River was interpreted as good fortunes for the locals. The return of the fish species back to the riverbeds, where they reproduced and depart this life, favoured fishing activities among the aboriginals, because the catch could be easily trapped (Honea, Jorgensen, Mcclure, Cooney, Engie, Holzer, Hilborn, 2009).
To the local natives, the salmon moved in as a result of spiritual factor; therefore, their backward movement was never anticipated but always treated with spiritual appreciation. Without any activity expended in cultivation, salmon was basically meant for exploitation. This served as a practically free endowment to the healthy life, which the Columbia society needed to continue existing.
Tracing women prejudice to the river
Brannon et al (2004) indicate being thankful for the salmon resources was the main inspiration of the locals; therefore, the comeback of the fish was a reprieve for a major anxiety. Owing to the traditional notion that female members of the community were blamed for the poor salmon catches.
Women are mythically believed to have protected the salmon in the source of water near the rapids, where fishermen could not reach. For, the females who declined Coyote’s offer of marriage, he cursed the whole community with poor salmon harvests. The females were at times referred to as a sandpiper (McClure et al, 2003). Generally, the cultural essence of the Columbia River revolves around the spiritual satisfaction of the locals.
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Human effect on the river
Human effect on the river has been both positive and negative. Whereas, few locals appreciated the significance of the geographical phenomenon, most did not. As a result, overexploitation of salmon led to the near extinction of the fish species in the river. The volume of the water in the river also reduced due to agricultural activities in the basin.
Nevertheless, tourism has traditionally been a major factor that led to the fusion of different cultures in the Columbia Basin. Fishing, farming and tourism activities have impacted the River. For instance, the local fishermen would implement unfavourable fishing activity, which resulted in the depletion of the species.
Depletion of salmon
To illustrate the seriousness of the fishing activity, the people would wait close by with large sticks to subdue the trapped salmon. Each bag caught thousands of pounds of salmon, especially during high seasons, leading to their substantial decrease. At the Dalles area, the local Cathlathalas and Cathlakaheckits would erect ridges over the cascades to hold sunken nets.
At this spot, an experienced fisherman could carry home, about 500 salmon every day (Brannon, Powell, Quinn, & Talbot, 2004; Halsing, & Moore, 2008). And because the amount of the catch was not constant or reliable due to geographical or seasonal variations, McClure, Holmes, Beth and Chris, 2003).
British Columbia’s Economy and the Columbia River
The Columbia River highly impacted the economy of British Columbia in a number of ways such as the production of hydro-electric power for use in homes and within major industries and foreign exchange earning. The power surplus is exported abroad, with the United States receiving about $250 million in revenue. Additionally, the construction of the dams created massive employment opportunities for the locals.
The river also served other purposes: not only does the river support farming activities in the region; it also serves as an impeccable tourist destination. The forests are of environmental significance; besides, the locals benefited from the employment activities provided by logging activities in the region.
Brannon, E.L., Powell, M.S., Quinn, T.P., & Talbot, A. (2004). Population Structure of Columbia River Basin Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 12(2/3), 99-232.
Halsing, D.L., & Moore, M.R. (2008). Cost-Effective Management Alternatives for Snake River Chinook Salmon: A Biological-Economic Synthesis. Conservation Biology, 22(2), 338-350.
Honea, J.M., Jorgensen, J.C., Mcclure, M.M., Cooney, T.D., Engie, K., Holzer, D.M., Hilborn, R. (2009). Evaluating habitat effects on population status: influence of habitat restoration on spring-run Chinook salmon. Freshwater Biology, J54(7), 1576-1592.
Keefer, M. L., Peery, C. A., Jepson, M. A., & Stuehrenberg, L. C. (2004). Upstream migration rates of radio-tagged adult Chinook salmon in riverine habitats of the Columbia River basin. Journal of Fish Biology, 65(4), 1126-1141.
Levin, P.S. (2003).Regional Differences in Responses of Chinook Salmon Populations to Large-Scale Climatic Patterns. Journal of Biogeography, 30(5), 711-717.
McClure, M.M., Holmes, E.E, Beth L.S., & Chris, E.J. (2003). A Large-Scale, Multispecies Status Assessment: Anadromous Salmonids in the Columbia River Basin. Ecological Applications, 13(4), 964-989.