February 28, 2024: Fishing in all the Usual and Accustomed Places


The Boldt Decision Then and Now, 50 Years Later

Those eight words in the 1855 Treaties with Washington tribes have changed the fishing industry in the Northwest and continue to be consequential in decisions that have placed limits on heavy industry and development. The Boldt Decision, named after U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt, brought about far-reaching societal changes as it reinforced tribal sovereignty and began to remedy centuries of racial injustice.

Judge Boldt’s decision along with subsequent cases confirmed that the 20 treaty tribes had the right to harvest half of the catch in Puget Sound in all of their traditional fishing areas, but perhaps even more importantly as the water wars heat up, tribes are entitled to “harvestable” fish and a habitat that produces them.

Our speakers will explain the history of this momentous decision and its effects that are still resonating in our land and water use planning today. They will explore the politics and challenges behind the Boldt decision and bring us up to date on the present state of the harvest.

Speakers include: 

Lisa Wilson (Qwo’shi’lo’sia), who is a member of the Lummi Indian Business Council and Vice Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. She also serves as co-chair of the Natural Resources Committee of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and is the former Endangered Species Act manager of the Lummi Natural Resources.

Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree in Native environmental science from Northwest Indian College and created the documentary “Time Immemorial: A Fishing History of the Lummi People” as her capstone project. Her expertise lies in treaty protection and fisheries policy management.

Dan Raas started his Indian Law career in 1973 when he and his late wife moved to the Washington coast where he represented the Quinault Indian Nation. In 1976 he was recruited by the Lummi Nation as its first Reservation Attorney. After representing the Lummi Nation for 39 years concentrating on natural resources, taxation and general government, he retired, although he still serves as the Chief Justice of the Tulalip Tribal Court of Appeals. He was a founding Trustee and later Chair of the Indian Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association. Locally he has been President of the Whatcom County Bar Association, a founding Trustee and later Chair of what is now LAW Advocates and the recipient of both the State and Whatcom County Bar Associations’ pro bono lawyer of the year awards. He graduated from the New York University School of Law as a Root-Tilden Scholar and earned a B.A from Reed College.

Dan is a charter member and past president of the Bellingham City Club, and currently a member of the Program Committee.