Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission taps new leader

During a 2013 CRITFC delegation to Washington, D.C., Kat Brigham (Umatilla) met with Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

PORTLAND — Umatilla tribal leader N. Kathryn “Kat” Brigham was selected by leaders from the Warm Springs, Yakama, Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes to lead the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) as its 2015-16 chairwoman.

Currently serving as the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Board of Trustees secretary, Brigham is a veteran of domestic and international salmon management that has left a lasting impression on Columbia Basin salmon policy. Brigham will be sworn in July 23 during the commission’s meeting in Hood River.

The Portland-based Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of four treaty tribes in the Columbia River Basin: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Brigham was introduced to fisheries issues as a young adult when she would accompany her grandfather, respected tribal leader Sam Kash Kash, to fisheries meetings. During this time, he instilled in her the need to protect fisheries resources for the next seven generations and beyond. In 1976, Kat was appointed to the Umatilla Tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Committee.

Brigham was one of the founding commissioners of CRITFC when it was formed in 1977. During her tenure, 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.

“During my service in fisheries, I have seen Columbia Basin salmon issues evolve greatly,” Brigham said. “When I started, there were some Columbia Basin salmon runs that were heading toward extinction. Today, we are seeing some of the strongest returns in years. We celebrate these successes and continue to address the challenges that we still face. Some of the largest remaining threats to our region’s fisheries include climate change, water quality and the transportation of coal and oil.”

Brigham assumes the position from Carlos Smith (Warm Springs). His leadership over the past year guided the commission through a year where the tribes waded into key battles against reckless coal and oil transportation projects, secured important advancements in the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty and saw abundant salmon returns celebrated.

“The Warm Springs have been true leaders whose commitment to protecting tribal treaty rights have provided a solid platform for the next year,” Brigham said. “As leaders, we have the responsibility to fight for our 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 their children and grandchildren. Our people deserve to know that their rights are being protected and enhanced, not threatened or diminished.”

The other CRITFC officers elected were Patrick Luke (Yakama), vice chair; Leotis McCormack (Nez Perce), secretary; and Carlos Smith (Warm Springs), treasurer. The election of CRITFC officers takes place every June with the seats rotated among the four member tribes.

Information on CRITFC is at www.critfc.org.

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