Ed Johnstone, Quinault Indian Nation, (QIN) wondered as he thought about the retreat of the life-giving Anderson Glacier that feeds the Quinault River.
Johnstone, a fisheries policy representative for QIN, brought his personal thoughts about climate change to the First Stewards Climate Change symposium. Each item of several necklaces he wore represented important cultural foods or natural resources that are already being affected by the changing climate, including a cedar fish, a paddle and doll woven out of cedar.
A run of spring chinook salmon has dwindled as the glacier that feeds the river has retreated. QIN people worry the waters will warm and the freshets that are important to young sockeye salmon to take them sea will also dwindle and warm too much to allow for survival.
“The blueback, or sockeye salmon, is an iconic run of salmon for us,” Johnstone said. “We are undertaking a monumental restoration effort in the upper Quinault River, but now the glacier retreat adds to the problems for the fish.”
“What’s going to happen to the eagle who needs the salmon, to the chitwin, the bear, who forages on the water’s edge?,” said Johnstone.
Johnstone recounted the massing changes on the coast for QIN people, from fish kills caused by low oxygen zones in the ocean as well as increasing acidification of the ocean causing shellfish and important microscopic fish food to have difficulty forming a shell.
“These things tell a story. When you include our story, it will be better explained to the rest of the country as we all deal with climate change.”