“For I say to you that our health is from the fish; our strength
is from the fish; our very life is from the fish.”
Stirring words of George Meninock, a Yakama, cut through the Washington State Senate
in 1921 as he defended his treaty right to fish.
Meninock told a story from the Walla Walla council grounds where his father signed
a treaty with Isaac Stevens in 1855. “Stevens said, 'I will write it down
in the treaty that you and your people have the right to take fish at these old
fishing places, and I pledge the Americans to keep this promise as long as the mountains
stand, as long as the sun shines, and as long as the river runs.'”
Treaty negotiations have been debated across the country since first contact. Only
modern history has begun to understand the depth of the tribal quest for sovereignty.
It wasn't until 1989 that the state of Washington signed a Centennial Accord
with the tribes recognizing their sovereign rights.
Click photo to enlarge
Chief Meninock appears on the day of his formal address at the old capitol building
with Yakama tribal members and Kate Bates, daughter of treaty negotiator Isaac Stevens.
Almost 70 years after Stevens and Meninock's father signed the treaty, their
children revisit negotiations. “I gave the two volumes of father's life
to old Chief Meneneock who asked me to tell him what my father had told me of the
Walla Walla [Treaty] Council,” Bates wrote in her diary.