The Indian Country Today
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Gifts from the Creator

The story of the native people inhabiting the Columbia Basin and Plateau begins and ends with salmon. As a gift from the creator that has returned to their homelands for centuries, the salmon demands both respect and care. The traditional meal of dried or smoked salmon has retained its central place in twenty-first century ceremonies, get-togethers, and dinner tables. These Umatilla reservation families rely on salmon both for food and to remind them of their kinship with creation.

Despite the disruptions caused by dams and heavy traffic on the Columbia River, local tribes continue to celebrate the arrival of salmon each spring, and catching one’s first fish remains a milestone in every male child’s life.

Fishing along the Umatilla River, c. 2003.

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Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation