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Salmon are smoking mad. And now they're suing!
Indigenous people, fuming over dams, have enlisted fish as legal partners
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
What do salmon do? Apart from spawning and feeding, they pretty much swim upstream and down as well as providing delight to anglers and diners.
Now you can add that they are legal litigants. Yes, an Indigenous nation has turned to a novel legal tactic by suing on behalf of the pink-fleshed creatures, alleging that dams preventing the species from migrating are a violation of the fish’s “inherent rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve.” The salmon, called TsuladxW in the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe’s Lushootseed language, are named as plaintiffs in the case, according to The Guardian.
The lawsuit is part of the growing “rights of nature” movement, a legal theory that seeks to give natural entities, like rivers or plants or animals, similar legal rights to humans. More specifically, the Sauk-Suiattle nation believes courts should recognize rights that the tribe has always believed fish have.
“People need to know that these are our laws and if you come into our territory and do things that affect us you should be familiar with our laws and show us respect,” Jack Fiander, a tribal member and lawyer representing the tribe, told the paper. “These tribal beliefs shouldn’t be ridiculed. They’re based on ancestral knowledge that shouldn’t be discounted.”
The litigation is part of the growing “rights of nature” movement, a legal theory that seeks to give natural entities, like rivers or plants or animals, similar legal rights to humans.
One plant in particular, manoomin, a wild rice sacred to Indigenous people, caught attention last fall when the White Earth Nation, located in Minnesota, sued the state’s department of natural resources on the edible’s behalf, arguing that a recent permit for a new natural gas pipeline violated the rice’s right to “exist and flourish.” The case is now in federal court.
Just imagine if salmon liked to munch on manoomin…