It is an agreement that is continuously tested. Today, the Medicine Creek treaty rights are under threat again from a perhaps an unforeseen enemy: climate change and pollution, which are damaging the Puget Sound watershed and the salmon that breed and live in those rivers, lakes and streams.
“It’s tough because we’re running out of resources,” says Nisqually tribal council member Willie Frank, III, who has long been active in the modern-day fishing rights battle. “We’re running out of salmon, running out of clean water, running out of our habitat. What we’re doing right now is arguing over the last salmon,” he says.
The history of Indian treaties is littered with broken promises and bad deals. And even though Medicine Creek was disadvantageous in many ways, “it’s all we’ve got,” says Farron McCloud, chairman of the Nisqually tribal council.