Washington Tribes Call For Removal of Columbia River Dams and Urge Feds to “Reject the Offensive Doctrine of Christian Discovery”

“The Columbia River dams were built on this false legal foundation,” Yakama Nation tribal chairman JoDe Goudy said, “and decimated the Yakama Nation’s fisheries, traditional foods, and cultural sites.”

Columbia River hydropower in The Dalles, Ore. (Christine Dong)

Two Washington state tribes, the Yakama Nation and the Lummi Nation, today called for the federal government to remove three dams on the Columbia River.

The demand comes on Indigenous Peoples' Day, still recognized by some as Columbus Day, and seeks for the removal of the John Day, the Dalles and the Bonneville Dams, which straddle the Oregon and Washington border.

In a statement, tribe leaders urged the feds to "reject the offensive doctrine of Christian discovery, which the United States uses to justify actions that impair the rights of Native nations."

"The Columbia River dams were built on this false legal foundation," Yakama Nation tribal chairman JoDe Goudy said, "and decimated the Yakama Nation's fisheries, traditional foods, and cultural sites."

The Yakama Nation said that in the Treaty of 1855 it ceded land to the federal government for the right to fish outside of the Yakama Reservation, and that it did not consent to the construction of the dams on the lower Columbia River. The tribe said the dams inundated fishing sites and caused the decline of salmon, lamprey and other foods that Yakama Nation relies on.

"We stand with the Yakama Nation in asserting their sovereign right to make decisions and act in the best interest of their people, their homelands, and future generations," Jeremiah (Jay) Julius, chairman of the Lummi Nation, said in a statement. "We are in a constant battle, whether defeating coal ports, opposing increased vessel traffic on the Salish Sea, repairing culverts, or removing invasive Atlantic Salmon, to leave to future generations a lifeway promised to our ancestors 164 years ago.

The tribes also have the support of the Portland-based nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper, which said today in a statement that its efforts to recover endangered salmon species are not working.

"The stagnant reservoirs behind the dams create dangerously hot water, and climate change is pushing the river over the edge. Year after year, the river gets hotter," it said. "Let's transition from costly hydropower to clean energy, honor our nation's treaties, and restore the mighty Columbia."

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