N. Kathryn Brigham

Brigham: Reflecting on COVID and the Snake River dams

I can remember the call on March 2, 2020 informing me that we had a COVID-19 case on the CTUIR. The first act of the Board of Trustees was to put the community’s health and safety as the priority. We temporarily closed Wildhorse Resort and Casino, the Education and Day Care facilities in order to allow all of them to be thoroughly cleaned to protect our members and community.

In the past year Yellowhawk, as of February 26th, conducted 2,691 tests, 226 positive and 2,465 negative cases. By the end of March Yellowhawk will have vaccinated more than 2,000 Tribal members, other Indians, Community Members, staff and their families.

We are making progress BUT all of us still need to follow the three standing guidance: wear a mask, keep 6 feet social distance and wash our hands regularly. There is hope, but we must maintain safety.

On another issue, the General Council passed a resolution that support’s Lower Snake River dams removal. In February Idaho Representative Mike Simpson rolled out a proposal to remove the Lower Snake River dams while maintaining the energy, commercial, irrigation and navigational needs in the Columbia River Basin, all while working towards the goal of rebuilding the Snake River salmon stocks. These salmon stocks pass through and along CTUIR’s usual and accustom areas where our members have had little or no fishing over the last 50 plus years.

CTUIR have been working for decades to protect, restore and rebuild salmon stocks in all of our usual and accustom areas. One of our successes is rebuilding salmon stocks in the Umatilla River, where salmon were extent for 75 years. CTUIR success was reached through a collaborative and partnership approach to seek solutions to the problems that plague salmons return to their waters. If CTUIR could rebuild our stocks by ourselves we would have done it a long time ago, but we cannot and we must build relationships with federal, state and local entities who want to work for the good of everyone. Therefore all of us need to be open minded at looking at Representative Simpson’s proposal to see if there may be light at the end of the tunnel for our Snake River salmon.