Opinion: Fish remain essential for Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe

"Federally recognized tribes in Washington (including the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe) have treaty rights with the federal government that protect their traditional lifestyle of fishing and harvesting shellfish within their usual and accustomed areas.

The Treaty of Point No Point, signed in 1855 between territorial governor Isaac I. Stevens and the S’Klallams, allows the S’Klallam tribes to fish, harvest shellfish, hunt and gather in exchange for title to most of their ancestral lands. The Boldt Decision in 1974 upheld the tribes’ right to manage and harvest their treaty resources and requires that the resources remain protected.

Resource gathering is an important aspect to tribal well-being. Fish and shellfish provide tribal members with a low-cost source of food that is high in such nutrients as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, iodine, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and D. Subsistence harvesting is a healthy physical and spiritual activity that is central to the identity of many Native people.

If tribal members lose access to natural foods due to contamination, other low-cost alternatives, such as fast food, can lead to diets high in saturated fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates and lacking in mineral nutrition. Potential risks include higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and depression. Therefore, traditional foods are essential to maintaining the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of tribal members."

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Rory O’Rourke: Fish consumption rate and what it means to you (The Kingston Community News 10/26)

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