On January 6, the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit in Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Court against the City of Seattle on the Tribe’s behalf and on behalf of Tsuladxw (salmon in the Tribe’s language). The lawsuit seeks:
1) Recognition that Tsuladxw (salmon) possess the “inherent right to exist, flourish, regenerate, evolve, as well as an inherent right to restoration, recovery, and preservation”
2) A ruling that the City of Seattle has threatened and imperiled the Tribe and the salmon within their aboriginal territory and on the Sauk-Suiattle Reservation
3) A ruling that the Tribe possesses a duty to “protect and save” salmon in the face of continued harm and decline
On April 19, 2023, the City of Seattle settled, and the agreement creates a roadmap for the creation of a fish passage system to return salmon to their native ecosystem and restore the lifeblood of the tribes.
The Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, known as the Sahkuméhu, ceded their aboriginal territory to the federal government through the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. As explained in the court filing, despite the Tribe’s treaty-protected right and obligation to protect fish migrating to and from the Tribe’s traditional fishing grounds, the City of Seattle constructed dams on the Skagit River without consulting with any tribe. The lawsuit argues that the dams constructed by the City of Seattle obstruct the passage of adult fish upriver and block nutrients necessary to the health of juvenile fish, all of which contributes to the severe decline of salmon species.