4. History‎ > ‎

100.020 Salmon & Wildlife

Prehistoric Ecosystem:

Humans arrived on the Columbia Plateau, encompassing the watershed of the Columbia River and its major tributaries, about 12,000 years ago, making the region one of the longest-inhabited in the Western Hemisphere.  ...  ...these first arrivals "encountered a virgin land filled with herds of mammoth, mastodon, giant bison, ground sloths, and mastodon".  (Keyser, qtd. in Durbin 15)

Traditionally, the native peoples of the lower Columbia River used salmon extensively; their diet also included many native plants gathered throughout the region.  Wapato, camas, nuts, and a wide variety of berries, as well as wild game, rounded their diet and provided additional trade items.  (Paddles and Paths Interpretive Sign, Bridal Veil State Scenic Viewpoint)

See intro:  
Langille, W. A. and S. H. Boardman.  "State Parks Historical Sketches: Columbia Gorge State Parks."  OPRD / Oregon State Archives.  1946.  PDF.http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/doc/records/state/odot/pdfs/columbia_gorge.pdf


Before white settlement and the arrival of fish wheels, fish canneries, and dams, annual runs of Columbia River Salmon were estimated at 16 million.  Annual runs have now diminished to an estimated one million.  (Durbin 15)

The river's teeming fish and verdant shores were rich resources.  The native peoples knew the best sites to harvest and when each food would be at its peak of quality.  This was not haphazard, but required a year-long travel itinerary.  Social and spiritual events were closely linked with the sites of these food sources.  

Paddles and Paths Interpretive Sign, Bridal Veil State Scenic Viewpoint

Salmon hold a place in Northwest Indian culture similar to that of the buffalo for Plains Indians.  The salmon's seasonal spawning migration provided great symbolism, signalling spring and the renewal of life.  Gorge Indians believe it is a privilege to eat them and that this gift from the spirit world deserves thanks.  Each Spring, return of the salmon is still commemorated in first salmon rites.

Paddles and Paths Interpretive Sign, Bridal Veil State Scenic Viewpoint

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