Economic dependence on land, a history of discrimination, and inadequate government help make tribal populations particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Cutting through the rocky canyons of southern Idaho, the Snake River was once home to millions of vibrant, red sockeye salmon. These industrious fish can travel over 1600km in their lifetimes (the equivalent of swimming from Mumbai to Muscat,) gliding across the American West to reach the Pacific Ocean, only to return home years later to spawn the next generation before dying.
This cycle has endured for millennia, even before the Nez Perce tribe settled across the Columbia River Plateau nearly 11,500 years ago. However, as is so often the story with climate change, the survival of the Snake River sockeyes is now in jeopardy. In 2015, amidst a record-breaking heatwave in Idaho, nearly 99 per cent of sockeye returning from the Pacific died — millions of them were cooked to death in the scorching waters.
For the Nez Perce, this loss is more than just economics. The tribe, like most indigenous populations, consider nature sacred. The salmon is not just a source of sustenance, but also a reflection of their way of life and their symbiotic relationship with their ancestral lands.
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