Paying for lost salmon

Each member of Washington's Colville Confederated Tribes recently received a federal check for $5,989 to compensate for land taken to build the Grand Coulee Dam 62 years ago. But despite the money the Indians received, the land and the rich salmon fishery that the dam destroyed are still missed. Martin Louie Sr., 88, says he remembers when he could catch all the salmon he could eat from the Columbia River - rather than paying $20 for a dried filet from Canada. "We used to have salmon by the glory, all the way up from the ocean to Kettle Falls," Louie told the Spokesman-Review. "I don't think the government has money to pay me for all that." The checks came from a $53 million settlement to a tribal claim filed in 1951 over unfulfilled federal promises. The government will also pay at least $15 million each year the dam operates. Tribal councilwoman Gloria Picard says tribal leaders settled for less than they might have because they wanted the money to go to those who were originally displaced by the dam. "There were a lot of elders saying, "I hope I live to see this payment," and many, many of them didn't." There is concern that some members will squander the money. Tribal members may vote to use some future payment collectively. But for now, the money is allowing some to purchase land or attend school, and local businesses report that used car and furniture sales are booming.

* John Craig