PORTLAND, Ore. – Umatilla tribal leader Corinne Sams was sworn in as the 2023-2024 Chair of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission at its July 28 meeting held along the Columbia River at Skamania Lodge. Outgoing CRITFC Chair Ron Suppah, Sr. (Warm Springs) administered the oath of office.
Sams serves as a member-at-large on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s governing body, the Board of Trustees. She was elected to the Board in December 2019 and began serving as ex officio member of the Umatilla Fish and Wildlife Commission and a CRITFC Commissioner representing her tribe. When she was re-elected in 2021 she assumed leadership of the Umatilla Fish and Wildlife Commission and became the CTUIR’s official CRITFC delegate.
Looking toward her coming year as Chair, Sams said she hopes to continue building on the strong partnership and collaboration between the four river tribes.
“I take on this responsibility, and I don’t take it lightly,” remarked Sams after taking the oath of office. “This is very serious; we’re in a time where we’re literally fighting off extinction of our aquatic species. I know that we come here with a unified voice and I want to continue to strengthen that voice.”
Sams joins CRITFC Executive Director Aja DeCoteau in an historic time for tribal women in leadership. With DeCoteau in the top staff position and Sams serving as Chair, this is the first time in CRITFC history that both the Commission Chair and Executive Director roles have been filled by women simultaneously.
“All four of our member tribes bring important contributions to the CRITFC table,” said DeCoteau. “I look forward to Chair Sams’s leadership as we navigate a number of major issues facing salmon, tribes, and the Columbia Basin. Chair Sams’ priorities of protecting our First Foods, addressing climate change, restoring salmon habitat, and safeguarding treaty-reserved fishing rights will have far-reaching impacts on both the tribes and the region.”
“I appreciate all the teachings shared over the last four years and all the words that have been spoken at the CRITFC table. I’ve listened and I’ve learned, I’m happy to carry on those words as well as carry on the work that CRITFC and each of our member tribes is doing.”
Outgoing-Chair Suppah said of the change of guard, “Being Chair of the Commission is not an easy task. I have watched and listened to Corinne these last several years, and I see that she is up to the job. I appreciate all the support I received from fellow commissioners and CRITFC staff, especially this past year and look forward to Chair Sams’ leadership.”
The other CRITFC officers elected for the 2023-2024 term were Jeremy Takala (Yakama), vice-chair; Ferris Paisano (Nez Perce), secretary, and Ron Suppah, Sr. (Warm Springs), treasurer.