Synopses & Reviews
Empty Nets is a disturbing history of broken promises and justice delayed. It chronicles a native people's fight to maintain their livelihood and culture in the face of an indifferent federal bureaucracy and hostile state governments. In 1939, the U.S. Government promised to provide Columbia River Indians with replacements for traditional fishing sites flooded in the backwater of the Bonneville Dam. Roberta Ulrich recounts the Indians' sixtyyear struggle, in the courts and on the river, to persuade the government to keep its promise. From the beginning, the battle was intertwined with the tribes' larger effort to assert treatyguaranteed fishing rights. Ulrich deftly examines a host of other issues—including declining salmon runs, industrial development, tribal selfgovernment, and recreation—that became enmeshed in the tribes' pursuit of justice. Her broad and incisive account ranges from descriptions of the dam's disastrous effec ts on a salmondependent culture to portraits of the plights of individual Indian families. Descendants of those to whom the promise was made and ac tivists who have s pent their lives working to acquire the sites reveal the remarkable patience and resilience of the Columbia River Indians. In a new epilogue, Ulrich updates the story of the treaty fishing sites— now all nearly completed—and describes political and cultural developments since 1999, including a major new component: the planned reconstruc tion of the Celilo Indian Village. And yet des pite the everchanging circumstances surrounding the treaty sites, the tribes' objec tive remains the same. In the words of Donald Sampson, former executive direc tor of the Columbia River InterTribal Fish Commission, "Our people's desire is simple—to preserve the fish, to preserve our way of life, now and for future generations."
About the Author
ROBERTA ULRICH is a former reporter for United Press International and The Oregonian, where she created the paper's first beat covering Native American issues and came to know many of the families dispossessed by the Bonneville Dam. She lives in Beaverton, Oregon.