History of the Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Sites
Native American people have fished, gathered, hunted and lived on the Columbia River for thousands of years. The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Warm Springs tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government in 1855, ceding most of their lands but reserving the right to fish forever at “all usual and accustomed fishing places ...” In 1905 and again in 1919, the United States Supreme Court upheld these fishing rights and the Native Americans’ rights of access to these Columbia River sites.
However, the construction of Bonneville Dam in 1933 inundated about 40 Native American fishing sites from the dam site to The Dalles, Ore. A 1939 agreement called for the government to acquire and improve sites to serve as “in-lieu” fishing sites. Five tracts totaling 40 acres were purchased for the use and benefit of the Native Americans.
Current Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Sites
Public Law 100-581 in 1988 directed the Corps to acquire and improve 23 specified sites along the Columbia River. In addition, the law directed the Corps to acquire and develop additional sites on the Bonneville Pool for treaty fishing use, and to improve the in-lieu sites. The legislation specifies improvements to be provided such as boat ramps and docks, and sanitary and camping facilities.
In total, The Columbia River Treaty Fishing Access Sites program includes 20 fishing access sites, six acquisition sites and five in-lieu sites. To date, the Corps has completed and improved 29 sites. Of these sites, four remain in Corps ownership under a program of shared Native American and public use. The tribes have also supported addressing existing public use issues, including adjusting boundaries, rebuilding existing public launch facilities and constructing a new sewer lift station.
The Native American Technical Corrections Act of 2004 expanded the CRTFAS program authorization to include the redevelopment and improvement of Celilo Village east of The Dalles, Ore.