First of all, you have to ask yourself, why is there political correctness? The only answer is because you’re afraid to say what you honestly believe.
Kurt Russel, Aug 4/17
Political correctness is the cancer that destroys democracies.
Curtis Bevington Aug 4/17 in reply to Kurt Russel
Decisions taken with respect to First Nations fishing, first for Skeena chinook and, more recently, for Skeena sockeye are producing some predictable outcomes. Those outcomes aren’t all about fish. Consider a message received by ardent steelhead sport fisherman, Jim Benson, who has been around the Terrace through Hazleton, Kispiox, Smthers, Houston turf for decades. He’s not one to stay quiet when he makes observations of things that just don’t square with messages commonly espoused by those who would have us believe their world is fish first.
After witnessing an event in Terrace where local First Nations folk were barbequing freshly caught salmon for sale to all comers, Jim sent this to me personally. He felt it unsafe or, at least, unwise to deal with local media for fear of reprisal. Such is the climate of the moment. Contacting political representatives to register his views was also considered a useless exercise. One could hardly take issue with that.
I debated whether or not I would post this here. That personal reflection lasted until I received other, fully independent, first hand accounts of clandestine gill netting of sockeye by FN people up Babine way well before the recently announced opening, as well as the usual opportunities to buy FN caught salmon. There was even one on Face Book! With that I’m going with Jim’s message. Here is his unaltered transmission:
ON EGG SHELLS
“We coastal anglers walk a common road which has funneled us down to a very narrow path where we are now required to walk on egg shells. Political correctness lurks behind every tree, every turn and within every shadow where it commands our silence. Listen carefully and you will hear egg-shells crunch beneath my feet for I am going to say what every coastal salmon and steelhead angler from California to Alaska knows to be exactly true.
Politicians pander, small town politics are intertwined and history has been rewritten to manufacture a wall of political correctness created to filter out what I am about to say. Politicians have seized upon the power and resultant monetary gain they derive through alignment with indigenous people who seek to parlay their hold upon the fishery with our earnings through claims of sins by our forefathers. This they artfully perpetrate, while the sins of their very own forefathers are systematically scrubbed from history for the very same transgressions they chastise ours.
Our children are raised in schools where any mention of indigenous conquest, slavery and even genocide committed between indigenous people prior to European settlement of North America is scrubbed from their curriculum. Conversely, the wrongs of our European forefathers are pounded into the brains of our children until they submit with feelings of shame and anger.
Heretofore, I have not stated one untruth, but alarmed by the sound of egg-shells beneath my feet, ranks will mobilize to label me a bigot or attack my standing and silence my voice. I am not a bigot. I was raised by parents who would not tolerate such. I do not stand here against a people. Rather, I stand against an injustice people perpetrate as a wrong to right another wrong based upon misdeeds for which their forefathers committed the very same transgressions.
I have fly fished all primary and many secondary coastal Pacific Northwest rivers for steelhead and salmon from California to Alaska and inland up the Columbia River Basin into Idaho and Okanogan tributaries. This story is the same for all I have fished but for this blog I am going to narrow this focus to the recent closure of the Lower Kalum river to accommodate the indiscriminate gill netting and beach seining of chinook salmon for “ceremonial” and food requirements. Additionally, the Canadian Department of Fisheries has allocated 30,000 sockeye for indigenous people to net in the Skeena River. Here are images of salmon harvested by the Kitsumkalum Band and sold in Terrace during Riverboat Day celebrations today 5-August. Hundreds of folks from Terrace and surrounding areas paid the band $10 a plate….
In years of plenty this would be one thing but this is not a year of plenty. This year the Skeena River fishery is in trouble. This is a year for cooperation. This is a year for all to conserve and sacrifice. I would suggest that the Indigenous people have pushed we sport anglers, and the environment far enough. Their forefathers caught salmon with grass and wooden fish traps constructed with stone bladed implements. They worked the river with canoes. This they could do to serve their “ceremonial” needs. There is absolutely no correlation to the modern methods they secure for themselves today vs. “what was (theoretically) taken from them”. Because they have secured from our politicians and courts the legal right does not mean they should shed their moral obligation and indiscriminately decimate the eco-system. This is the year 2017. Any and all theoretical wrongs are multiple generations behind any of us, yet we are forced to pay for their operations.
What to do, you ask? What can be done? Now that I’m through the egg shells I’ll run head on into the mine field….
It is our fault not theirs! That’s right,… OUR FAULT! In fact, I rather admire what they have perpetrated against us. We have in effect succumbed to a form of modern day enslavement. They take our hard earned tax dollars. We go to work every day to support them. They have boats, trucks gill nets and other implements provided. They have casinos, gas stations and convenience stores which for all I know may operate free of taxation. They then take those profits and funnel monies back through lobbyists into political campaigns for favours that increase future tax money allotments and fishing rights. We purchase their goods and services to have our own money used against us to pay more taxes and yield our fishing rights to boot! STOP THAT!
The next thing we must do is teach our children what the self-serving politicians seek be forgotten. At least partially home school your children so they understand there was a time in history when people were either conquerors or conquered. Let them know that though it may have been a shameful time, they have nothing to be personally shameful of. Let them know that historically white, black and brown peoples all engaged in these activities even against their own peoples. Teach them to be respectful and get along with everyone but to also stand tall against those whom seek to diminish them because of actions during a bygone era of which they had no part. Tell them to stand and speak out if taught otherwise. As a parent, if you do this, most assuredly there will be a parent teacher conference in your near future but so be it. That will become your opportunity to stand tall and not be politically corrected into submission. Tell your school administrators that you expect them to teach your children history as it happened instead of their politically sanitized version.
On a local political level take the time to sort out City Council and Mayoral candidates that do not represent sport angling interests. See to it they go on record before you vote for them. Do the same on provincial and national levels. Write editorial letters, comment on line, write letters to your government representatives and be active in campaigns of candidates who support sport fishing interest. Be heard, do not go quietly. Instead of fighting other sport angling methods, form a cohesive block of voting power.
I believe FN Bands are over-playing their hand. Their claim for “ceremonial” salmon is grossly over-played. Their blatant disregard for the environment is systematically destroying their public image. Their methods of modern gill nets, beach seining and fleets of supporting jet boats evidence their intent for commercial harvest and thereby wanton decimation of wild resources.
Eventually their own actions will be their undoing. On a local level we see it, but in urban areas it is not understood. It is incumbent upon us to discuss these truths with those whom we know in both rural and urban areas. When FN people’s come door-to-door or otherwise market their gill netted and beach seined salmon do not buy it, not at any cost. For a fact, I know this happens in Terrace. I have been offered the same and even steelhead in a New Hazelton coffee shop. Encourage your friends not to consume “wild seafood” but seek responsibly farm raised seafood instead.
We sport anglers must also move to higher ground and vote as a block. We must be responsible for our own sport fishing practices and this year take a step above and beyond the regulations. There aren’t enough salmon to fill every freezer in Terrace and beyond. It is possible there may never be enough here forward, however I am optimistic of mother nature’s resiliency. Oh yes, resist the calls for enhancement because those voices will follow this winter after the counts are public.They always do after a poor return. Keep the Skeena wild!
All the while we do this, please do so with respect and absent a mean spirit because that is how our story is best carried forward. That is how our story will gradually gain traction, our voting base multiplied and the environment better served. When we have turned a corner with critical mass, politicians will instead pander to our lobby.
OR….. maybe, just maybe FN bands will come to recognize their over-play and join us on common ground to enact reasonable solutions. While we can hope for the later we must wage the former because without pressure it just won’t happen. Do not buy FN goods and services and encourage others do the same.”