Yakama Nation leader Gerald Lewis was selected by officials from the Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Warm Springs tribes to lead the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission as its new chairman.
A respected fisher and longhouse leader for the Yakama Nation, Lewis’ ties to the Columbia River and its fisheries run strong and deep.
“It is an honor to be selected as the next chairman,” said Lewis. “I am proud of the tribes’ accomplishments in recovering Columbia River salmon and confident in their leadership and capacity to do the work that still needs to be done. During my chairmanship, I will be making the effort to enact hatchery policy changes throughout the region a high priority. Making changes to hatchery operations only gets us so far, though, if the waters where salmon live no longer allow them to thrive.
“For this reason, the protection and restoration of the rivers and streams with also be a very high priority. Restoring threatened ecosystems, reducing toxic contaminants found in the rivers and streams in the basin, and studying the impacts of climate change to these resources will be major issues that I hope to guide at the CRITFC table over the coming year. Ultimately, our end goal is to ensure that our sacred First Foods-water, salmon, game, roots, and berries-are protected and available to future generations in perpetuity.”
Lewis was born in Toppenish, Wash., and raised in the small Yakama reservation community of White Swan, Wash. He has fished throughout the usual and accustomed fishing areas of his tribe since he was just a small boy and continues this tradition to today. Lewis has served on the Commission since he was elected to the Yakama Nation Tribal Council in 2010. In addition to his duty to represent the Yakama Nation on CRITFC, he also serves on the Yakama Nation’s Fish, Wildlife and Law & Order Committee and Culture Committee.
Lewis will assume the chairmanship on July 20 from Bruce Jim (Warm Springs) who served as CRITFC chairman for the past year.
“I welcome Mr. Lewis in his new position and look forward to working with him as CRITFC continues to build on the past year’s significant accomplishments,” said Jim. “The unity of the four tribes is one of our greatest strengths; our combined efforts and sacrifices over the past thirty-five years are reflected in the larger fish runs that we are now experiencing.”
The Warm Springs Tribe presided over CRITFC during a year that was highlighted by the commissioning of CRITFC enforcement officers with federal enforcement authority from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, extensive tribal-federal collaboration for stricter water quality standards in Oregon, and opening of negotiations for a revised Columbia River Treaty that included tribal rights and protections for the basin’s fish populations.
The other CRITFC officers elected were: Kat Brigham (Umatilla), vice-chairwoman; Joel Moffett (Nez Perce), secretary; and Bruce Jim (Warm Springs), treasurer. The election of CRITFC officers takes place every June with the seats rotated among the four member tribes.
Information on CRITFC and its newly elected officials is available online at www.critfc.org