- Tribal Science and Farmers’ Resistance: A Political Ecology of Salmon Habitat Restoration in the American Northwest
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 87, Number 3, Summer 2014
- pp. 727-758
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- Additional Information
In the northwest corner of the US, commercial farmers defend their place-based heritage against the scientific and regulatory strategies of local Native American tribes seeking to restore salmon habitat in agricultural areas. The apparent irony of this scenario stems from a set of unique circumstances in the American Northwest that complicates dominant narratives and allegiances in political ecology and related fields. Ethnographic and historical evidence shows how a century of tribal activism to regain treaty fishing rights, and now to restore fish habitat, has collided with new forms of activism among county-supported farmers, whose counter-discourses depict themselves as stewards of the land. This case represents an exception to the more commonly observed pattern in which Western science and state power threaten to erode indigenous culture. It nevertheless suggests that the instrumentalist approach to salmon habitat restoration in Washington state, on the part of tribal and non-tribal entities alike, constrains ecosystem recovery by preventing a sophisticated understanding of its complex social and cultural dimensions. A detailed understanding of the histories and place-based identities that motivate the political engagement of both tribal and agricultural communities could inform more socially effective strategies for achieving actual habitat restoration goals.