Nez Perce Tribe Prepares for Release of Film: Covenant of the Salmon People
Lapwai, Idaho- The Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) is nearing completion of a year-long project with ‘Swift Water Films’ of a documentary that tells the story of the Tribe’s connection to salmon. Covenant of the Salmon People, scheduled for release in Fall 2022, expands on the creation story of the Nimiipuu, where before humans were created animals could speak. The salmon was the first to give of themselves to provide nourishment for the people, in return the people would always protect and speak on their behalf. Today, the Tribe is at a pivotal point in their fight to protect and restore several species of salmon that are near extinction.
“Genetically salmon has imprinted on our DNA,” said Nakia Williamson, Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resources Director. “Now we are only left with a handful of places that have the numbers of salmon that we can actually fish and continue that way of life.”
The homelands of the Nimiipuu span across modern day Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana. This includes major waterways and tributaries, including the Snake River, where four dams threaten the future of salmon and the tribe. From the beginning, the Nimiipuu contested the construction of the dams, yet despite their cries of concern the dams were built. Today, mere single digit percentages of salmon return to their natural spawning grounds, after having to pass through eight dams including the four dams on the Lower Snake River.
Today, the Tribe continues to speak and fight for salmon by leading the effort to breach the four Lower Snake River Dams. The Tribe is prepared to do the work that needs to be done to make this a reality; putting the salmon first and making all affected parties whole by doing things differently and working toward a stronger Northwest.
“This film will cover the perspectives of all our people, not just us as policy makers and staff, but also our tribal elders, men, women and children. After all, this is a fight for the Nez Perce Tribe and each individual tribal member who is at risk of losing a part of their culture, and a part of their identity,” said Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman, Samuel Penney. “Our method of fighting to protect the salmon has evolved over the years, but the work has never stopped, and never will, until we can ensure the protection of these species and the return of their historical numbers.”
Covenant of the Salmon People will share perspectives and stories from the Nimiipuu and expand into the modern-day “wars” that continue in order to uphold their covenant.
“I have to say, when is enough, enough? We have turned as many dials for salmon recovery as we are capable of doing,” said Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Vice-Chairman, Shannon Wheeler. “Our back is against the wall. We need to turn some of the larger dials, and some of the larger dials include dam breaching. Now, more than ever our voice needs to be amplified for salmon and for the rest of the environment,” continued Vice-Chairman Wheeler. “We will never forget our covenant with the salmon.”