Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Virgil Lewis writes about why it is important to restore the sockeye to Cle Elum Lake and Cle Elum River.
by Virgil Lewis
Special to The Times
December 6, 2012
When I was a young child, my father used to take me fishing. I caught my very first salmon on the Yakima River. As I grew up, I also witnessed our Yakama treaty-protected salmon runs diminishing to the point of extinction.
In 1997, I assisted with startup operations at Yakama’s Cle Elum Research and Supplementation Facility for spring chinook salmon. I still remember that very first adult spring chinook that returned to the river to spawn. Now I am a Yakama Nation Tribal Council member and, in these last weeks, I have witnessed the return of the sockeye to Cle Elum Lake and Cle Elum River.
Sockeye only exist from Northern California to Alaska. They are unique among salmon because their young live and feed for two years in lakes before journeying to the ocean, and their adults stop in these lakes, where some will feed again, before proceeding upriver to spawn.