WWU to host ‘The Boldt Decision at 50: Looking Back and Planning Forward’ on May 15 in Fraser 102

Landmark ruling rewrote tribal sovereignty and fishing rights and shifted the landscape between tribes and governmental regulators

Bellingham, WA — This year marks the 50th anniversary of the most consequential federal court case impacting sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural resource management for the federally recognized tribes of Washington state, and in honor of this groundbreaking case WWU will host a panel discussion, “The Boldt Decision at 50: Looking Back and Planning Forward,” from 3:30-5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15 in Fraser Hall 102.  

This event is free and open to the public. 

The outcome of the 1974 U.S. v. Washington case (more commonly known as the Boldt Decision) was the culmination of Washington state’s tribal civil rights movement and acknowledged the state’s infringement of federal treaty responsibility. The Boldt Decision has dramatically changed political, legal, and regulatory interaction between tribal nations and governments.  

The impacts of this decision are wide-ranging, including salmon and shellfish harvesting rights, salmon habitat restoration, permits for a proposed coal export terminal, and the operation of hydroelectric dams.  

The panel will discuss the history of the Boldt Decision and its current application and consider the potential future impacts of this decision in its next impactful 50 years.  

The panel participants 

Scott Schuyler is a member of the Upper Skagit Tribe and a lifelong fisher. He has worked alongside Billy Frank Jr., Lorraine Loomis, and others on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He works as Natural Resources Policy Representative for the Upper Skagit Tribe. 

Ellie Kinley is a member of the Lummi Nation and a lifelong fisher. She represents tribal fishing interests on the Whatcom Commercial Fishermen Coalition board and is active in efforts to protect salmon, orca, and habitat of the Salish Sea.  Kinley is also president of the Sacred Lands Conservancy, an organization working to protect the Salish Sea. 

Jay Julius is a member of the Lummi Nation and past chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council. He is a lifelong fisher and executive director of the Se’Si’Le Foundation, which works to protect Indigenous areas, resources, and sacred sites in the Salish Sea. 

Tim Ballew Sr. is a member of the Lummi Nation and a lifelong fisher. He has served a member of the Lummi Nation Indian Business Council and is a professor at Northwest Indian College, teaching courses on philosophy, tribal governance, and native science. 

Jeremy Wilbur is a member of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and elected member of the Swinomish Tribal Senate. He is a fisher and advocate for issues relating to salmon conservation, fisheries management, and treaty rights. 

Nancy Shippentower is a member of the Puyallup Tribe and a relative of Billy Frank Jr. She has served as a member of the Puyallup Tribal Council and is active in efforts to protect the lands and waters of the Salish Sea region. 

This event was planned and organized by Michael Shepard of the Western Anthropology Department in collaboration with his students in ANTH 361 American Indian Perspectives and ANTH 462 Critical Issues in Indigenous Northwest Studies. 

The event organizers wished to thank the WWU Office of Tribal Relations for the guidance, collaboration, and partnership to make this event possible. The event is sponsored by Western’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the Salish Sea Institute.  

The panel discussion will also feature a welcome by Laural Ballew, WWU executive director for Tribal Relations, and an opening address by Anthony Hillaire, chairman of the Lummi Nation.