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Resource allocation and control on the Lummi Indian reservation : a century of conflict and change in the salmon fishery Boxberger, Daniel L.


This study focuses on the Lummi Indian fishers of Northwest Washington State, and the manner in which they have been included in and excluded from the commercial fishing industry over the past one hundred years. The approach to be taken in this situation of internal dependency is to examine access to resources. The control of productive resources — land, water, timber, minerals, and fish. — that Indians own or have access to, presents an ideal starting point for understanding Indian underdevelopment. Prior to and immediately after the time the Lummi were confined to a reservation, they were engaged in a traditional fishery that met their needs for subsistence and had the potential to develop into a viable commercial endeavor. The penetration of capital into the commercial salmon fishery of North Puget Sound initially utilized Lummi labor, but the development of new extractive technologies and an increase in the availability of labor of other ethnicities rapidly circumvented the need for Indian labor. Concomitantly, throughout the early 1900s, efforts by the State of Washington to curtail Indian fishing resulted in the Lummi being confined to a small reservation fishery of insignificant commercial potential. In the 1940s, when Lummi exclusion from the fishery was almost total, the need for fishers suddenly became acute, and the Lummi were once again incorporated into the commercial salmon fishery. Nevertheless, the post-war era again saw new developments in the salmon industry, and, no longer needed by the processors, the Lummi were once again squeezed out of the industry. Sympathetic court cases in the late 1960s and early 1970s guaranteed commercially significant fishing opportunity for the Lummi. Nevertheless, the present Lummi salmon fishery is not going to provide the Lummi with a viable economic base. The manner in which the fishery has developed is causing the majority of the economic yield of the fishery to be siphoned off to non-Lummi interests. Utilizing ethnohistorical and ethnographic data, this study examines a dependency approach to understanding Lummi underdevelopment. By focusing primarily on economic and political dependency on the United States Federal Government, this study shows how the Lummi community was incorporated into the dominant society and became a dependent community suffering from chronic underdevelopment, despite access to and utilization of a valuable natural resource.

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