STEVENSON, Wash. — The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) hosted its annual Columbia River Indian Fishers Expo on July 27, 2023, at Skamania Lodge for the first time since the pandemic. While originally planned as a smaller event than years past, the 2023 Expo had the largest number of vendor, trade, and informational booths ever. It attracted more than 200 tribal fishers and their families.
Newly sworn-in CRITFC Chair Corinne Sams, (Umatilla) opened the event along with the CTUIR Youth Leadership Council. “The return of the 2023 CRITFC Fishers Expo is an enormous effort to connect with our tribal fishers and families along the Big River. We appreciate all the sponsors, partners, and individuals who supported the event. CRITFC will always strive to provide support and resources to our people living and fishing along the river. The four Columbia River treaty fishing tribes want to ensure protection, and enhancement of our anadromous fish, water conditions, habitat, and passage. We strive to maintain healthy and abundant fish returns for generations to come.”
The Expo featured numerous activities, giveaways, and information geared toward the unique needs of Columbia River tribal fishers like boat and engine repair, a simulated cold-water rescue challenge, marketing assistance for fishers who sell their harvest to the public, health, and social services available to tribal members along the river, distribution of critical safety materials like life jackets, emergency beacons, etc., and more.
“CRITFC and our member tribes are dedicated to supporting tribal fishers who participate in Columbia River ceremonial, subsistence, and commercial fisheries,” said CRITFC Executive Director Aja DeCoteau. “We support fishers’ efforts to provide for their families and the cultural needs of their tribes and the Expo is one way we are working to support them.
A wide range of elected and appointed tribal and local officials also attended the Expo including Warm Springs Tribal Chairman Jonathan Smith, Sr., Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Chris Wallahee, City of Mosier Mayor Witt Anderson, Stevenson City Councilor Kristy McCaskell, and Hood River City Councilors Grant Polson and Gladys Rivera.
Planning is already underway for the 2024 Expo in March. CRITFC has an Expo website to provide more information and to gather feedback and suggestions from tribal fishers: https://critfc.org/for-tribal-fishers/expo/