Is Salmon Surprise on the Table? Indigenous Rights and Multi-Stakeholder Diplomacy in the Renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty

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Department of Social Sciences


As a consequence of hydropower utilization and environmental change, the number of salmonids in the Columbia River Basin shared by the US and Canada declined sharply through the twentieth century. This meant a great economic and cultural loss for the Indigenous communities of the basin, especially as they could not participate in the decisions concerning their lands, societies, and future. The current renegotiation of the 1961 Columbia River Treaty, regulating flood control and hydropower production between the two states, offers a historic opportunity to address these problems. In order to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, however, a new understanding of transboundary water diplomacy is necessary. The authors argue that the renegotiation process needs to go beyond multi-stakeholder approaches and embrace the sovereignty of the Indigenous partners. The salmon issue, should it ultimately be addressed, could prove transformative for the relationship between Indigenous people and their tribal governments and other sovereigns, and it would mark a significant stride towards reconciliation and decolonizing policy in the US and Canada.

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Springer Water