Umatilla tribal leader N. Kathryn “Kat” Brigham was recently selected by leaders from the Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce, and Warm Springs tribes to lead the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission as its new chair.
One of the founding members of CRITFC, Kat’s June 29 election represents the second time Kat has served as CRITFC’s chair. She first served in the position from 2008-2009.
Introduced to fisheries issues as a young adult, Kat would accompany her grandfather and respected tribal leader Sam Kash Kash to meetings. There, he instilled in her the need to protect fisheries resources for the next seven generations.
“My teachings about salmon and our fishing rights goes back to when I was a young girl," said Brigham. "We have a responsibility to fight for those treaty rights, for our tribal members and the next seven generations of tribal members. Tribal families on the Columbia River are exercising their treaty fishing right and passing down traditions to children, and now grandchildren. Our people deserve to know that their rights are being protected and enhanced, not threatened or diminished."
Today, Kat serves as the secretary for the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. A staunch advocate for salmon and tribal treaty fishing rights, Kat was first appointed to the Umatilla Tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Committee in August 1976. During her tenure at CRITFC, she has been instrumental in the implementation of the 1976 memorandum of agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration and the tribes, the U.S. v. Oregon Columbia River Fish Management Plans, the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Northwest Power Act.
Kat will assume the chairmanship on July 25 from Gerald Lewis (Yakama Nation) who has served as CRITFC chairman for the past year.
Lewis demonstrated strong leadership for the 15 tribes who are collaborating on the Columbia River treaty and presided during a year that was highlighted by the completion of the first phase of construction of treaty fishing access sites along the Columbia River, the breaching of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, the completion of the Tribal Lamprey Restoration Plan, and new water quality standards for Oregon that will protect tribal communities.
“Kat’s experience and knowledge in salmon policy and tribal treaty fishing rights will take CRITFC far in the next year,” said Lewis. “It was an honor to serves as chairman and to be part of so many things during the past year. We have come a long way but we have a lot of work that still needs to be done.”
The other CRITFC officers elected were Joel Moffett (Nez Perce), vice chair; Bruce Jim (Warm Springs), secretary, and Gerald Lewis (Yakama), 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.
Portland-based CRITFC is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of four Columbia River treaty tribes.