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Fishy Pleasures: Unsettling Fish Hatching and Fish Catching on Pacific Frontiers

Cleo Woelfle-Ersk­ine

Abstract: In debates over Puget Sound salmon recov­ery, the Wild Steel­head Fed­er­a­tion, a set­tler sport­fish­ing advo­cate, argues that hatch­ery-raised steel­head lack fight­ing spir­it, and fig­ures them as unnat­ur­al. The North­west Indi­an Fish­eries Com­mis­sion and its mem­ber tribes oper­ate hatch­eries as strat­e­gy for main­tain­ing fish runs until degrad­ed habi­tats can be restored, and fig­ure hatch­eries as one of many sites of mak­ing rela­tions. Although the genet­ic sci­ence mobi­lized on all sides of this debate is fair­ly new, set­tler dis­cours­es that, on the one hand, blame trib­al har­vest for salmon decline and, on the oth­er hand, con­strue sport­fish­ing as cen­tral to set­tler fam­i­ly-mak­ing and mas­culin­i­ties, have roots going back to the notion of the fron­tier itself. As a slant­wise inter­ven­tion in this debate, I con­sid­er sport­fish­ing as a site and strat­e­gy for mak­ing set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties, by exam­in­ing visu­al archives that doc­u­ment his­tor­i­cal prac­tices of sport­fish­ing and the tech­nolo­gies on which con­tem­po­rary salmon and trout sport­fish­ing depends: the reser­voir, the fish hatch­ery, and the fish­ing pole. Trac­ing argu­ments about Nature and set­tler mas­culin­i­ties back to the ori­gins of fish cul­ture in hatch­eries through the writ­ing of George Perkins Marsh, I argue label­ing either nor­ma­tive set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties and gen­der rela­tions or the flood­ed spawn­ing grounds beneath reser­voirs as unnat­ur­al threat­ens co-con­sti­tut­ed set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties and rework­ings of “nat­ur­al” land­scapes.

Résumé: Au sein des débats qui entourent la réim­plan­ta­tion des saumons dans le Puget Sound, la Wild Steel­head Fed­er­a­tion, qui défend la pêche sportive des colons, avance que les saumons Steel­head de pis­ci­cul­ture man­quent d’agressivité et ne les con­sid­èrent pas comme naturels. La North­west Idi­an Fish­eries Com­mis­sion et les tribus qui en sont mem­bres main­ti­en­nent que la pro­duc­tion en éle­vage sera un stratégie néces­saire pour con­serv­er la pop­u­la­tion pis­ci­cole jusqu’à la restau­ra­tion de leur habi­tat naturel, et con­sid­èrent la pis­ci­cul­ture comme un des mul­ti­ples sites prop­ices à l’établissement de rela­tions. Bien que la sci­ence géné­tique util­isée par les dif­férents côtés de ce débat soit rel­a­tive­ment récente, les argu­ments des colons accu­sant les pêch­es pra­tiquées par les tribus d’être respon­s­ables du déclin de la pop­u­la­tion des saumons con­sid­èrent, par ailleurs, la pêche sportive comme cen­trale à la la mas­culin­ité et à la con­struc­tion des familles par­mi les colons et remon­tent à la notion même de fron­tière. M’insérant dans ce débat par un biais dif­férent, je con­sid­ère la pêche sportive comme un site et une stratégie de con­struc­tion des sex­u­al­ités des colons en étu­di­ant les archives visuelles qui doc­u­mentent les pra­tiques his­toriques de la pêche sportive et les tech­nolo­gies dont dépend la pêche sportive con­tem­po­raine du saumon et de la tru­ite: les bassins, les appareils à éclo­sion et les canes à pêche. Retraçant les argu­ments sur la Nature et les mas­culin­ités colo­niales jusqu’aux orig­ines de la pis­ci­cul­ture dans les écrits de George Perkins Marsh, je sug­gère que la nor­ma­tiv­ité des sex­u­al­ités mas­cu­lines colo­niales et l’établissement de bassins pis­ci­coles sous les réser­voirs aquifères sont des men­aces arti­fi­cielles con­sti­tuées par les sex­u­al­ités colo­niales et leur recon­struc­tions des paysages “naturels”.


Catch­ing, hold­ing, prepar­ing, and eat­ing fish yield unpar­al­leled sen­su­ous plea­sures: float­ing on the water in a boat with the breeze in your hair, sit­ting on the bank in con­tem­pla­tion, wad­ing in a swift-flow­ing stream, the sat­is­fac­tion of a good cast, luck of the bite or dip of the net, the thrill of grasp­ing a live­ly, flop­ping body, the heft of a fish or string of sev­er­al, the first bite of flaky hot flesh on your tongue.

What kinds of rela­tions do Indige­nous, arrivant, and set­tler peo­ple make of, through, and with these fishy plea­sures? And, with which fish do dif­fer­ent peo­ple make these rela­tions and take these plea­sures? In what entan­gle­ments with water, infra­struc­ture, and tox­i­c­i­ty, as well as notions of Nature? How do fishy plea­sures mat­ter for Indige­nous sov­er­eign­ty, migrant his­to­ry, and set­tler nar­ra­tives? How do these rela­tions co-con­sti­tute fam­i­ly and gen­der rela­tions, and do they prop up or dis­man­tle nor­ma­tive set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties?

This work builds on Indige­nous schol­ar­ship on fish rela­tions as con­sti­tu­tive of Indige­nous iden­ti­ties and cul­tur­al prac­tices, and of repair­ing fish rela­tions as exer­cis­es of sov­er­eign­ty. In her work with Inu­vialuit hunters and fish­ers, Zoe Todd (“‘This Is the Life’: Women’s Role in Food Pro­vi­sion­ing in Paulatu­uq, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries”) argues that food provisioning—especially fish­ing, but also whal­ing, berry pick­ing, and hunting—are not men’s affairs, but con­duct­ed by fam­i­lies, with women and men tak­ing on com­ple­men­tary and inter­de­pen­dent roles. While address­ing the lack of atten­tion to women’s prac­tices of fish­ing, Todd (“‘This Is the Life’: Women’s Role in Food Pro­vi­sion­ing in Paulatu­uq, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries” 155) out­lines an Indige­nous under­stand­ing of gen­der in which human-ani­mal dis­tinc­tions are more impor­tant than dif­fer­ences between men and women, and hunt­ing rela­tions among men, women, and whales dis­tin­guish­es between human gen­ders with­out defin­ing them as oppo­sites: “Where­as West­ern con­cep­tions of gen­der turn on a bina­ry oppo­si­tion of male to female, Iñu­pi­at whale hunt­ing empha­sizes the inter­de­pen­dence of men and women, each of whom pos­sess cer­tain knowl­edge and skills that, while com­ple­men­tary, are insep­a­ra­ble from the whole.” This under­stand­ing of both male and female gen­der iden­ti­ties as co-con­sti­tut­ed through famil­ial rela­tions while hunt­ing and fish­ing can make space for more expan­sive under­stand­ings of gen­der (inclu­sive of Two Spir­it, trans, or the gen­ders of child­hood, among oth­ers), and for think­ing about fish­ing as a way of mak­ing queer famil­ial rela­tions.

In her more recent work, Todd writes of Métis iden­ti­ty and place-sit­u­at­ed­ness as con­sti­tut­ed with stur­geon and Lake Win­nipeg water­shed (“From a Fishy Place”). She the­o­rizes Indige­nous law in rela­tion to stur­geon rela­tion­ships and notes that these prin­ci­ples con­tin­ue to guide Métis notions of legal orders and prop­er rela­tions across species even as the pop­u­la­tions of these fish are in severe decline. Todd refus­es Cana­di­an state legal under­stand­ings of Métis rela­tions with stur­geon and land-water­scape, and pro­pos­es a Métis eth­i­cal-legal frame­work to replace it:

The era­sure of Métis-fish and Métis-water rela­tion­ships with­in the Lake Win­nipeg water­shed in the legal rea­son­ing of Daniels dimin­ish­es the sig­nif­i­cance of the labour that Métis peo­ples per­form in tend­ing to, renew­ing and sus­tain­ing ongo­ing rela­tion­ships to more-than-human beings with­in a spe­cif­ic and bound­ed water­shed through time and space. The labour of co-con­sti­tut­ing rela­tion­ships to the waters and fish of the Lake Win­nipeg water­shed is inte­gral in shap­ing the mate­r­i­al and meta­phys­i­cal sus­te­nance and gov­er­nance of Métis as a people….[Métis peo­ple] must also turn to, and acknowl­edge, our respon­si­bil­i­ties to waters, to lands, to fish and to all the oth­er liv­ing, sen­tient beings with­in the ter­ri­to­ries we move through in order to envi­sion a Métis poli­ty that encom­pass­es pos­si­bil­i­ties, dreams and sto­ries far more sus­tain­ing than the ane­mic capac­i­ties of the nation state and its hand-me-down laws from Britain and France (“From a Fishy Place” 52).

Potawato­mi schol­ar Kyle Whyte and col­leagues dis­cuss how Anishi­naabe under­stand­ings of stur­geon (Nmé) as rela­tions con­flict­ed with set­tler under­stand­ings of stur­geon genet­ics (Holt­gren et al.). Anishi­naabe man­age­ment main­tained genet­i­cal­ly dis­tinct stocks and pro­mot­ed genet­ic diver­si­ty, a strat­e­gy that will require a cen­tu­ry to regain fish­able lev­els; the set­tler pro­pos­al of inten­sive hatch­ery rear­ing would have pro­duced more catch­able fish, but dis­rupt­ed the con­ti­nu­ity of Nmé-human rela­tions through time. The Anishi­naabe and set­tler plans both relied on the tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies of fish culture—tanks, hatch­eries, and har­vest­ing gametes from adult fish and releas­ing young ones into water­bod­ies. Both strate­gies mobi­lized west­ern sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods to sup­port pol­i­cy goals, and pro­duced sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly valid results to sup­port those goals. But the two man­age­ment plans emerged from very dif­fer­ent notions of rela­tions between stur­geon and peo­ple, and so end­ed up with dif­fer­ent tem­po­ral­i­ties of recov­ery under­stand­ings of what that recov­ery meant. The Anishi­naabe plan set a 100-year win­dow before stur­geon pop­u­la­tions would recov­er to har­vestable lev­els, so that they could prop­a­gate genet­i­cal­ly dis­tinct stocks in dif­fer­ent water bod­ies, thus pre­serv­ing rela­tions between par­tic­u­lar Nmé and the Anishi­naabe clans with which they are in ongo­ing rela­tion.

Whyte notes that Anish­naabe-led man­age­ment practices—namely pub­lic events where Indige­nous, arrivant, and set­tler humans release young hatch­ery stur­geon into the stream—have trans­formed set­tler rela­tions to the Nmé (Whyte, “Our Ances­tors’ Dystopia Now”). This prac­tice has fos­tered in non-Anishi­naabe peo­ple a col­lec­tive rela­tion­ship to the Nmé pop­u­la­tion that is dif­fer­ent from the sport­fish­ing one that dom­i­nat­ed pre­vi­ous­ly. This rela­tion­ship is not the same as Anishi­naabe clan rela­tions to the Nmé, but it is a rela­tion­ship that is com­men­su­rate with Anishi­naabe man­age­ment and fish rela­tions.

Here I am inter­est­ed in com­ple­ment­ing these the­o­riza­tions of Indige­nous fish rela­tions as col­lec­tive and inter­gen­er­a­tional care prac­tices with a par­al­lel the­o­riza­tion of set­tler-fish rela­tions. I explore how gen­der, the fam­i­ly, and sex­u­al­i­ties are co-con­sti­tut­ed with prac­tices of sport­fish­ing and the tech­nolo­gies on which con­tem­po­rary salmon and trout sport­fish­ing depends: the reser­voir, the fish hatch­ery, and the fish­ing pole. This is a slant­wise inter­ven­tion into a cur­rent debate over the role of hatch­eries in Pacif­ic salmon fish­eries.1 I dis­cuss the sci­en­tif­ic and sov­er­eign­ty impli­ca­tions of this debate at length in my mono­graph (in progress), but gloss it briefly here. A sport­fish­ing orga­ni­za­tion strives to lim­it hatch­ery pro­duc­tion of steel­head, while tribes main­tain that hatch­ery pro­duc­tion is nec­es­sary to sus­tain treaty-guar­an­teed fish­eries. Bound up in this debate are incom­men­su­rate ethics of fish­ing (with a set­tler sport­fish­ing group assert­ing that trib­al com­mer­cial har­vest and hatch­ery pro­duc­tion are exac­er­bat­ing steel­head decline, and tribes coun­ter­ing that catch-and-release prac­tices trans­gress against fish­es’ offer­ing up of their bod­ies for con­sump­tion) and diver­gent notions of what char­ac­ter­is­tics of the steel­head pop­u­la­tion are impor­tant to pre­serve (with tribes assert­ing ongo­ing rela­tions to hatch­ery pro­duced fish through ethics of care in trib­al hatch­eries and the sport­fish­ing group defin­ing wild­ness as a good fight­ing spir­it on the end of the line).2 The Wash­ing­ton state fish­eries agency man­ages most hatch­eries and also depends on fish and game tag sales for most of its rev­enue. It sees its man­date as ensur­ing enough fish for com­mer­cial, recre­ation­al, and trib­al har­vest, no mat­ter the genet­ic pro­file, while fed­er­al agen­cies have delayed final deci­sions as they await more study. Although the genet­ic sci­ence mobi­lized on all sides of this debate is fair­ly new, set­tler dis­cours­es that, on the one hand, blame trib­al har­vest for salmon decline and, on the oth­er hand, con­strue sport­fish­ing as cen­tral to set­tler fam­i­ly-mak­ing and mas­culin­i­ties, have roots going back to the notion of the fron­tier itself. Here I explore these dis­cours­es in images and his­tor­i­cal texts.

Through­out this paper, I will dis­tin­guish among dif­fer­ent tac­tics of set­tler colo­nial­ism in the guise of Man­i­fest Des­tiny, enact­ed across time on and along rivers. Fol­low­ing Patr­cik Wolfe, I con­sid­er Man­i­fest Des­tiny as an ongo­ing process—rather than as an event that began with John O’Sullivan coin­ing of the term 1845—that con­tin­ues long after the frontier’s offi­cial clos­ing in 1890. This longue durée of set­tler colo­nial­ism res­onates with Wolfe’s “log­ic of elim­i­na­tion”: “Neg­a­tive­ly, [set­tler colo­nial­ism] strives for the dis­so­lu­tion of native soci­eties. Pos­i­tive­ly, it erects a new colo­nial soci­ety on the expro­pri­at­ed land base—as I put it, set­tler col­o­niz­ers come to stay: inva­sion is a struc­ture not an event” (388)

Let me begin by pre­sent­ing four moments of set­tler sex­u­al­i­ty as illus­trat­ed through fish catch­ing, arrayed through 120 years along two icon­ic Cal­i­for­nia rivers.

Visualizing Fishy Pleasures in Settler Family Life

A pic­ture post­card of a new rail line along the McCloud Riv­er (trib­u­tary to the Sacra­men­to) cir­ca 1889 depicts women in Vic­to­ri­an dress paint­ing the wilder­ness sub­lime as blank slate; oth­ers in the series show men fly-fish­ing in the riv­er and the train arriv­ing at a lux­u­ry lodge near Mount Shas­ta. Fish­ing and out­door recre­ation in spec­tac­u­lar locales near rail­road lines was a fre­quent pas­time of Vic­to­ri­an elites, who trav­eled to vague­ly Indi­an-themed lodges in Yosemite and Yel­low­stone Nation­al Parks; per­haps the ulti­mate sym­bol of leisure in wilder­ness was William Ran­dall Hearst’s Wyn­toon estate, along 39 miles of the McCloud Riv­er. The colour­ized black-and-white pho­to­graph is one of a series pro­duced rail­roads to boost train trav­el to such lux­u­ry lodges. The riv­er is pic­tured as a blank slate, ready to wel­come its new white inhab­i­tants to prac­tice famil­iar pur­suits in com­fort­able set­tings. The bloody mas­sacres of the Wiy­ot, Paiute, and Win­tu peo­ple, the crude and vul­gar life of the min­ing camps, dom­i­nat­ed by work­ing class men’s homoso­cial (if not homo­sex­u­al) prac­tices, the bru­tal labour extract­ed from (most­ly) Chi­nese men in build­ing the railroad—all of this con­t­a­m­i­na­tion has been mag­i­cal­ly erased, and the clear water and green for­est pro­vide both a site for vir­ile pur­suit of fight­ing trout and gen­teel fem­i­nine rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the wilder­ness sub­lime.

I encoun­tered this pho­to­graph on a fly-fish­ing guide’s blog (Trout). The blog’s cura­tor, fit­ting­ly named Jack Trout, includ­ed anoth­er pho­to­graph of two tow-head­ed chil­dren fish­ing with wil­low poles from row­boats near a fish­ing lodge—further visu­al evi­dence that white fam­i­lies vis­it­ing the lodge saw fish­ing as a key tac­tic of stak­ing claim to and inhab­it­ing the ter­ri­to­ry. That Hearst named his estate “Wyn­toon” after the Win­tu, whose fish­ing spots he usurped, sug­gests that he and his guests saw them­selves as becom­ing “native” through their exploits there. As inher­i­tors of Man­i­fest Des­tiny, set­tlers saw them­selves as heirs to the continent’s bio­log­i­cal abun­dance, fig­ured as resources (fish, game, for­est, and min­er­al) to be exploit­ed freely. In 1883, on the McCloud Riv­er, rail­road con­struc­tion threat­ened the export of salmon eggs from the hatch­ery; the eggs were trans­port­ed by rail and ship around the world to re-stock rivers dam­aged by resource extrac­tion, even as the rail­road con­struc­tion dam­aged the source of the eggs on the McCloud. “[T]he heavy blast­ing involved in the con­struc­tion oper­a­tions of the rail­road com­pa­ny, near the mouth of the Pitt Riv­er, had the effect of destroy­ing or stop­ping near­ly all of the salmon which would have ascend­ed the Pitt Riv­er, to which the McCloud Riv­er is a trib­u­tary” (Stone, “Report of Oper­a­tions at the U.S. Salmon-Breed­ing Sta­tion, on the M’Cloud Riv­er, Cal­i­for­nia, Dur­ing the Sea­son of 1884” 169). Yet despite dam­age from log­ging, min­ing, and the rail­road, the riv­er still ran with fish, enabling set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties as embod­ied in the het­ero­nor­ma­tive fam­i­ly to be pro­duced through var­i­ous forms of elite recre­ation a day’s train-ride from the metro­pole of San Fran­cis­co.






A newsman’s series of pho­tographs of Miller­ton Lake on open­ing day in 1945 shows those same elites joined by work­ing-class fish­ers along the bar­ren shores of a new­ly flood­ed land­scape. All five pho­tographs were tak­en on May 29, 1945, the day the reser­voir was opened to fish­ing. Engi­neers began fill­ing the reser­voir behind Fri­ant Dam on Feb­ru­ary 21, 1944; water first flowed down Madera Canal to San Joaquin Val­ley 12 days after these pic­tures were tak­en. Some­time in that inter­ven­ing year, the soil became sat­u­rat­ed and grass­es and trees under the water died. Fri­ant Dam on the San Joaquin Riv­er dec­i­mat­ed those salmon runs as Shas­ta did to upper Sacra­men­to Riv­er ones. At Miller­ton, the eerie images of men recre­at­ing in a drowned land­scape cel­e­brate a tri­umphant vision of dam build­ing while obscur­ing the dams’ destruc­tion of mil­lion-strong salmon runs on the Sacra­men­to and San Joaquin rivers. These pho­tos, and the archives in which they are con­tained, omit the Indige­nous and more-than-human rela­tions that arose from the sea­son­al runs of four species of Chi­nook salmon, coho salmon, and steel­head trout to Cal­i­for­nia rivers. The photographer’s cap­tion notes that the men, women, and chil­dren at the reser­voir that day were fish­ing for bluegill and crap­pie (both non-Native hatch­ery-pro­duced warm-water lake fish), but the fish on the stringers appear to be brown trout (a species from cen­tral Europe that was also pro­duced at the near­by Kings Riv­er hatch­ery). The men in the posed pho­tographs are per­form­ing fish cul­ture as a leisure activ­i­ty one does away from home, by car, in groups of men, for sport and to show off. They are dis­play­ing feel­ings of prowess, cama­raderie, and pride about the fish, though it’s hard to see the feel­ings as being for the fish themselves—because the fish are dead and held up for dis­play like tro­phies. Yet, the small size of some of the fish the men are tak­ing home, and the way in which the fish are dis­played, sug­gests that they are fish­ing for keeps, to eat lat­er.

McCloud red­band trout also showed up at the Rain­bow Ran­cho, a trout hatch­ery found­ed in 1939, high in the arid San Bernadi­no Moun­tains on the edge of the Mojave Desert.

Locat­ed in White­wa­ter, off the route from Hol­ly­wood to desert resorts but with­in a few hours’ dri­ve from urban cen­tres, the resort fea­tured square fish­ing ponds and a lodge where kitchen staff would cook up your catch. In a pho­to­graph from 1944, two men and two women stand at the bot­tom of gran­ite steps in front of a wood­en lodge hold­ing a wood­en pole from which hang 10 dead rain­bow trout. The trout hang from their gills, in a sym­met­ri­cal pat­tern with two large ones in the mid­dle and small­er ones flank­ing them. The men hold the heavy fish stick pos­ses­sive­ly, the women mere­ly ges­ture to it, acknowl­edg­ing their mates’ mas­cu­line dri­ve. The women stand clos­er to the men than to each oth­er, one hand hold­ing fish­ing poles flung over their shoul­ders and their oth­er hand rest­ing on the trout stick. The cou­ples’ out­fits are coordinated—solids vs. checkers—and their expres­sions ooze care­free leisure, as if all are think­ing (about their pre­sum­ably het­ero­sex­u­al mates), “What a catch!”

Only a white gran­ite out­crop com­ing in from the upper-right cor­ner dis­turbs the casu­al sym­me­try of bina­ry gen­der, lodge roof, and hang­ing trout. The peo­ple appear to be elites, het­ero­sex­u­al cou­ples escap­ing the heat of wartime Los Ange­les for a few days of moun­tain romance, but the cap­tion iden­ti­fies them as the actor Howard War­rick, Rain­bow Ran­cho pro­pri­etor Irv Mills, and Hol­ly­wood star­lets from Palm Springs—perhaps just act­ing out straight set­tler romance for the cam­era. The cute asso­nance and con­so­nance of “Rain­bow Ran­cho,” the casu­al appro­pri­a­tion of Span­ish names, the trout-descen­dent bod­ies, and the recon­fig­u­ra­tion of a flashy, braid­ed, fish­less riv­er into a placid gran­ite-rimmed pond all co-con­sti­tute a set­tler sex­i­ness that alludes to romance, sex, and love with­out repro­duc­tion.

The oth­er extant his­tor­i­cal pho­to­graph from the Rain­bow Ran­cho shows a more het­ero­ge­neous mix­ture of peo­ple. Where­as the 1944 pho­to­graph evokes the elite Wyn­toon lodge, here the set­ting is almost urban, with a mix of cypress and pines plant­ed in Los Ange­les parks, and a smooth, lev­el ground sur­round­ing a con­struct­ed pond. The cen­tre of focus is a mid­dle-aged white man who is hold­ing a fish­ing pole aloft in one hand while hold­ing a line out with the oth­er. Per­haps he has just land­ed a fish; it’s too dark in the shad­ows to tell for sure. Two blonde girls to his left are look­ing at the end of his line, as is a Black boy to their left, who is half-perched on the gran­ite wall of the pond with a line in the water; oth­er chil­dren are look­ing away. The pres­ence of the Black boy in the fore­ground invokes a post­war mul­tira­cial soci­ety in which set­tler prop­er­ty own­er­ship (in this case, of the Rain­bow Ran­cho) extends ben­e­fits to non-native, non-white cit­i­zens. In the pho­to­graph, set­tler sex­u­al­i­ty pro­duces the fam­i­ly in a safe and san­i­tized space where fish are released full-grown, and are eas­i­ly catch­able for pay­ing cus­tomers of dif­fer­ent ages and gen­ders. Per­haps Marsh’s notions of fish­ing as viril­i­ty boost­er are giv­ing way to post­war notions of gen­der equi­ty, or per­haps rur­al or work­ing-class women who grew up fish­ing are con­tin­u­ing as adults. The pho­to­graph evokes a whole­some fam­i­ly scene, pred­i­cat­ed on super­sed­ing Indige­nous rela­tions. This super­ces­sion con­tin­ues into the present. The Wild­lands Con­ser­van­cy bought the prop­er­ty, removed the trout hatch­ery, and plant­ed native shrubs and grass­es there, while main­tain­ing the trout fish­ing ponds as wildlife habi­tat. When I vis­it­ed in 2017, two huge, old trout swam in the upper pond, which was now sur­round­ed by thick­ets of wil­lows filled with birds. The lodge build­ing is pre­served as an infor­ma­tion cen­ter for vis­it­ing hik­ers, with nat­ur­al his­to­ry of local species and the organization’s land preser­va­tion efforts, but I found no evi­dence of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Moron­go Band of Mis­sion Indi­ans or oth­er region­al tribes.

Settler masculinities and virility as articulated with dams and hatcheries

Boost­ers and Bureau of Recla­ma­tion engi­neers sold Shas­ta and Fri­ant dams to set­tlers as recla­ma­tions of waste­lands, oppor­tu­ni­ties for post­war leisure, cheap water for farm­ing and urban devel­op­ment, and sources of cheap elec­tric­i­ty for the war effort and post­war boom. The young men of the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps who laboured and occa­sion­al­ly died build­ing the dams were, like the rivers their dams tram­meled, trans­formed from unruly and some­times deviant forces into effi­cient com­po­nents of post­war indus­tri­al economies. As [Anony­mous] notes,

Along with reliev­ing house­holds of under­em­ployed young men, the CCC offered pet­ty offend­ers an alter­na­tive to judi­cial pun­ish­ment, and it promised to sculpt these men's bod­ies and char­ac­ter through hik­ing, cal­is­then­ics, rou­tine hygiene checks, and team sports that were intend­ed to cul­ti­vate the “mil­i­taris­tic ten­den­cies” that were nec­es­sary for suc­cess in the mod­ern busi­ness world. Along with accul­tur­at­ing mas­culin­i­ty in explic­it­ly nation­al­ist terms, the swath of youth devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions that pro­lif­er­at­ed from the twen­ties to for­ties fos­tered an anti- eco­log­i­cal com­mon sense that fig­ured the white male as an excep­tion­al eco­log­i­cal agent whose mas­tery of wilder­ness spaces reflect­ed his readi­ness to advance U.S. Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion through indus­try and domes­tic fam­i­ly mak­ing (Anony­mous).

These dams were premised on the era­sure of Indige­nous river­ine man­age­ment and fish­eries prac­tice, inhab­i­ta­tion, and treaty rights (whether rat­i­fied or, as with the Win­nemem, not). This was all quite explic­it. Dams flood­ed many vil­lages and named fish­ing sites, which were used by indi­vid­u­als or col­lec­tives or fish­ers to catch dif­fer­ent species at dif­fer­ent times with nets, weirs, and some­times spears. They blocked spawn­ing grounds and pre­vent­ed salmon from reach­ing fish­ing sites, where peo­ple from many tribes would come togeth­er to fish, trade, exchange news, some­times meet their future spous­es, and per­form cer­e­monies. These dams and the ones that came after them end­ed up dri­ving salmon runs to extinc­tion or the brink, though this was not their builders’ inten­tion. Rather, white male engi­neers and fish­eries sci­en­tists (they were all white men back then) believed that hatch­ery-pro­duced fish could replace and even improve on the nat­ur­al runs the dams extin­guished. Politi­cians mar­ket­ed the new lakes as fam­i­ly idylls that would pro­mote set­tler fam­i­ly val­ues: leisure in mas­cu­line com­pa­ny for office-bound Father, a chance for Son to cul­ti­vate mas­cu­line inde­pen­dence and sports­man­ship, and fresh healthy fish for Moth­er and Daugh­ter to pre­pare back home.

For peo­ple who don’t fish, what to do at these lakes is a bit of a mys­tery. I’ve dri­ven the Inter­state 5 cor­ri­dor dozens of times over the last 20 years, over a neck of the reser­voir in all weath­er. I’ve not­ed the height of the “bath­tub ring” of red earth between the tree line and the water that marks the cur­rent sever­i­ty of drought and the progress on the new, high­er inter­state over­pass that will enable the dam to be raised 17 feet, flood­ing out sev­er­al miles of McCloud Riv­er and many of the Win­nemem sacred sites that remain above water. I’ve stopped at Lake Shas­ta per­haps 10 times, a few times to jump into the frigid water after six hours bak­ing in the Cen­tral Val­ley with no air con­di­tion­ing, a cou­ple times to walk the dog, and sev­er­al more to walk out onto the dam itself or take the ele­va­tor plunge through its arch wall. Some­times, swim­ming or walk­ing the dog at the boat ramps, we’d see pon­toon boaters com­ing or going, sober or sun­burned but most often not. At the dam, peo­ple tend to walk the length of it, back and forth, some­times star­ing upstream at the still water, or straight down at the dizzy­ing curve of the wall. Ever since I saw the Bureau of Recla­ma­tion pho­to­graph of the dam half com­plet­ed, I’ve sensed the steel rods and moun­tains of grav­el that make up the struc­ture under my feet. Ever since I’ve learned of schemes to raise the dam, I’ve imag­ined the extra water as a weight press­ing down as I walk or lean over the rail­ing and look down.

When fish­eries tech­ni­cians stocked the new lakes with hatch­ery trout, bass, and bluegill, they rein­vig­o­rat­ed an argu­ment about set­tler nation­hood and white mas­culin­i­ty first put forth by pro­to-envi­ron­men­tal­ist George Perkins Marsh a cen­tu­ry before. By the mid-1800s, most of the fish­ing streams and hunt­ing grounds along the east­ern seaboard of the U.S. were silt­ed in by log­ging and agri­cul­tur­al ero­sion, poi­soned by fac­to­ry efflu­ent, and blocked by tens of thou­sands of mill dams. As set­tler descen­dants migrat­ed from rur­al areas to fac­to­ry towns, some feared fem­i­niza­tion and moral decay, both from inter-mar­riage with immi­grants and from the loss of vig­or­ous out­door pur­suits.

Marsh’s 1857 ral­ly­ing cry for fish cul­ture argued that fish hatch­eries could pre­serve set­tler mas­culin­i­ty and safe­guard nation­al­ism:

We have noto­ri­ous­ly less phys­i­cal hardi­hood and endurance than the gen­er­a­tion which pre­ced­ed our own…and we have become not mere­ly a more thought­ful and earnest, but, it is to be feared, a duller, as well as a more effem­i­nate, and less bold and spir­it­ed nation….The chase is a health­ful and invig­o­rat­ing recre­ation, and its effects on the char­ac­ter of the sports­man, the hardy phys­i­cal habits, the quick­ness of eye, hand, and gen­er­al move­ment, the dex­ter­i­ty in the arts of pur­suit and destruc­tion, the fer­til­i­ty of expe­di­en, the courage and self-reliance, the half-mil­i­tary spir­it, in short, which it infus­es, are impor­tant ele­ments of pros­per­i­ty and strength in the bod­i­ly and men­tal con­sti­tu­tion of a peo­ple; nor is there any­thing in our polit­i­cal con­di­tion, which jus­ti­fies the hope, that any oth­er qual­i­ties than these will long main­tain invi­o­late our rights and our lib­er­ties (Marsh 8).

Note the key­words: effem­i­nate, sports­man, destruc­tion, half-mil­i­tary, our rights, our lib­er­ties. The “our” in ques­tion is set­tler men pre­serv­ing het­eropa­tri­archy and the mil­i­tary spir­it nec­es­sary to sub­due Indige­nous nations and for­eign ene­mies.

Like oth­er con­ser­va­tion­ists of his day, Marsh saw indus­tri­al­iza­tion and the accom­pa­ny­ing extinc­tion of game ani­mals as inevitable:

But how­ev­er desir­able it might be…to repeo­ple the woods and the streams with their orig­i­nal flocks and herds of birds and beasts, and shoals of fish, it is for obvi­ous rea­sons, imprac­ti­ca­ble to restore a con­di­tion of things incom­pat­i­ble with the neces­si­ties and the habits of cul­ti­vat­ed social life. The final extinc­tion of the larg­er wild quadrupeds and birds, as well as the diminu­tion of fish, and oth­er aquat­ic ani­mals, is every­where a con­di­tion of advanced civ­i­liza­tion and the increase and spread of a rur­al and indus­tri­al population.(Marsh 9)

Beneath the idyl­lic pic­ture of white het­ero­nor­ma­tive fam­i­lies fish­ing in a stocked lake lie techno­sci­en­tif­ic inter­ven­tions into fish sex and repro­duc­tion: the fish hatch­eries that Marsh was argu­ing for in the tract cit­ed above.

The stocked lake and the griz­zly-free wilder­ness that [Anony­mous] the­o­rizes both cre­ate safe spaces for set­tler fam­i­lies that nonethe­less evokes a time when bears fished for salmon in wild rivers: the wilder­ness that is nec­es­sary for the con­struc­tion of a white, set­tler mas­culin­i­ty. As [Anony­mous] argues in rela­tion to griz­zly bears, the eugenic com­mit­ments of con­ser­va­tion­ists only became more explic­it in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Preda­tor con­trol, meant to increase ungu­late pop­u­la­tions for elite hunters, was root­ed in fears of emas­cu­la­tion through set­tler inter­mar­riage with immi­grant and Indige­nous peo­ple (who were fig­ured as fem­i­nized and “parahu­man”) and the under­min­ing of het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty in an increas­ing­ly urban pop­u­la­tion. Crock­ett Club founder Theodore Roo­sevelt “endorsed an eth­ic of ‘stren­u­ous mas­culin­i­ty’, which locat­ed wilder­ness recre­ation as the key to safe­guard­ing the viril­i­ty as white, Amer­i­can race” (Anony­mous).

Fishy plea­sures of chase-and-catch and immer­sion in nature became more eas­i­ly acces­si­ble to more set­tlers when fake lakes replaced rivers. These lakes (fig­ured as Nature) became the back­drop to per­for­mances of “nat­ur­al” het­ero­nor­ma­tive gender/sex roles—women pic­nick­ing with their young chil­dren while their hus­bands and sons fished from the shore at Miller­ton, or lat­er, women loung­ing in biki­nis while men caught fish from the patri­ar­chal pon­toon boat on thou­sands of fake lakes in Cal­i­for­nia and beyond.

Indigenous Knowledge in Fish Culture Technique

These hatch­eries orig­i­nate in the set­tler appro­pri­a­tion of Win­nemem Win­tu fish­eries knowl­edge at Baird Hatch­ery on the McCloud Riv­er where, from 1872, Win­nemem men, women, and chil­dren taught fish-com­mis­sion biol­o­gists from the East Coast where to find fish, how often they spawned, what species they belonged to, and how to catch them. Win­nemem men did much of the labour of build­ing weirs and haul­ing seine to catch the spawn­ing fish and dig­ging water­works to divert flow to the hatch­ing tanks. Women and chil­dren worked in the hatch­ery pick­ing over eggs and prepar­ing them for ship­ment by rail and steamship as far away as Ger­many, Patag­o­nia, and New Zealand (Stone, Report of Oper­a­tions dur­ing 1872 at the Unit­ed States Salmon-Hatch­ing Estab­lish­ment on the M’Cloud Riv­er and on the Cal­i­for­nia Salmonidae Gen­er­al­ly; with a List of Spec­i­mens Col­lect­ed.). Win­nemem peo­ple lived, worked, and har­vest­ed salmon at Baird until 1935, when Bureau of Recla­ma­tion engi­neers build­ing Shas­ta Dam bull­dozed their homes and took their lands with­out com­pen­sa­tion (Stone, Report of Oper­a­tions dur­ing 1872 at the Unit­ed States Salmon-Hatch­ing Estab­lish­ment on the M’Cloud Riv­er and on the Cal­i­for­nia Salmonidae Gen­er­al­ly; with a List of Spec­i­mens Col­lect­ed.).

Liv­ingston Stone found­ed Baird Sta­tion on the McCloud Riv­er, the first hatch­ery for Pacif­ic salmon and source for most of the rain­bow trout raised in hatch­eries world­wide to this day. When he trav­elled to the McCloud in 1872 he knew noth­ing about Pacif­ic salmon: not where they spawned, or when, or where they went after spawn­ing, how many species there were, or how to catch them (Yoshiya­ma and Fish­er). In this pho­to­graph from around 1874, Win­nemem hatch­ery work­ers dry salmon for lat­er con­sump­tion, with the hatch­ery in the back­ground. The pho­to­graph, like sev­er­al oth­ers of set­tlers and Win­nemem work­ers pulling seines dip-net­ting salmon, some­times on mixed set­tler-Indige­nous crews, show every­day inter­ac­tions among the groups that appear unre­mark­able.



More so than staged por­traits, pho­tographs like these that show every­day inter­ac­tions in fish hatch­eries depict the con­tin­ued exis­tence of Indige­nous peo­ple and soci­eties in moder­ni­ty. As Caro com­ments in rela­tion to Gertrude Käsebier’s pho­to­graph “Uni­ti­tled (group of Native per­form­ers)”,

It is pre­cise­ly the way these pho­tographs have cap­tured Native sub­jects inhab­it­ing moder­ni­ty that today allows us the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a dif­fer­ent kind of nos­tal­gic reading—a nos­tal­gia pred­i­cat­ed on the loss of con­tem­po­rane­ity. In oth­er words, view­ers today can see in these pho­tos Native sub­jects who simul­ta­ne­ous­ly inhab­it the space of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er, a coeval­ness often denied Native sub­jects with­in the anthro­po­log­i­cal gaze. (Caro 38)

This coeval­ness opens the space for what July Cole has called “latent des­tiny,” a more rela­tion­al pos­si­bil­i­ty for fish­eries sci­ence that depend­ed and still depends on con­tin­u­ing Indige­nous pres­ence and evolv­ing cross-pol­li­na­tions between Indige­nous and set­tler sci­en­tif­ic prac­tice (Cole). Ulti­mate­ly this latent des­tiny did not per­sist at Baird because Stone and his col­leagues didn’t chal­lenge set­tler modes of fish­ing and inhab­i­ta­tion, from set­tler squat­ting on Win­nemem land to forced relo­ca­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion from first McCloud cor­ri­dor to the rem­nant piece of land flood­ed behind Shas­ta Dam. How­ev­er, numer­ous con­tem­po­rary trib­al fish­eries sci­ence and habi­tat stew­ard­ship pro­grams demon­strate the ongo­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty to fore­ground Indige­nous knowl­edges in river­ine ecol­o­gy prac­tice.

The meth­ods of fish cul­ture devel­oped at Baird are now stan­dard at salmon and trout hatch­eries: tech­ni­cians cap­ture spawn­ing fish in weirs, extract their gametes, and incu­bate them in a series of trays and tanks before releas­ing the young fry back into lakes and rivers. Descen­dants of the McCloud rain­bow trout are raised by the mil­lions in hatch­eries world­wide. Hatch­eries sus­tain both recre­ation­al trout catch­es and many com­mer­cial­ly-har­vest­ed salmon runs. Leav­ing aside the com­mer­cial har­vest for the moment, I now con­sid­er sport­fish­ing for steel­head as a rein­vig­o­ra­tion of Man­i­fest Des­tiny log­ics applied to set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties.

Incommensurable ethics

Sport­fish­ing some­times instru­men­tal­izes fish into sta­tus sym­bols, for exam­ple in catch-and-release fish­eries when the tro­phy is a pho­to­graph of a per­son, usu­al­ly a man, grasp­ing a gasp­ing live fish above the water in a pho­to, or when fish skins are kept and stuffed as tro­phies. At oth­er times, the bound­ary between sport­fish­ing and sub­sis­tence fish­ing blurs, as when peo­ple pose with their largest fish but take them all home to eat.

The con­flicts between sport­fish­ing and Indige­nous fish­ing (and hunt­ing) prac­tices reveal incom­men­su­rate ethics. Dur­ing fish-ins in the 1970s, the pan-Indi­an move­ment paper Akwe­sasne Notes fea­tured a two-page spread about the fish wars in Puget Sound. Amidst pho­tographs of a fish­ing camp recent­ly raid­ed and bull­dozed by state game war­dens, the paper ran a quote from an unnamed Puyallup fish­er­man which read, “It was cleaned out—probably by sports­men who want all the fish for them­selves, not to feed their fam­i­lies but to show off” (“Fish­er­men and the Fas­cists: The Mass­sacre of the Puyallup Camp”). The fisherman’s com­ment con­tains an eth­i­cal claim: that catch-and-release prac­tices are uneth­i­cal because they dis­rupt rela­tions between a fish and the human it offers its life to. The fly-fish­ers of the Wild Steel­head Fed­er­a­tion, in con­trast, recent­ly argued that their catch-and-release prac­tices are more humane because by releas­ing fish, they are not killing them. How­ev­er, oppo­nents of catch-and-release salmon and trout fish­eries cite research show­ing that han­dling stress caus­es many fish to die sev­er­al hours after release (Fer­gu­son and Tufts).

The Akwe­sasne Notes spread marks a turn­ing point in set­tler-trib­al-salmon rela­tions in the Pacif­ic West: a move­ment paper based out of Mohawk ter­ri­to­ry cov­er­ing legal cas­es and direct action on the Colum­bia Riv­er and Puget Sound. This spread appeared just a few years before the Boldt deci­sion trans­formed salmon man­age­ment prac­tice by guar­an­tee­ing tribes 50 per­cent of catch­able fish—and the right to man­age the runs so that there were fish to catch. But where legal schol­ars often focus on Boldt’s legal inter­pre­ta­tion as the key in shift­ing rela­tions, offi­cial trib­al out­lets such as the North­west Indi­an Fish­eries Com­mis­sion newslet­ter note that the tribes’ strug­gle to fish and have fish to catch has con­tin­ued in var­i­ous forms since set­tler har­vest and indus­try dec­i­mat­ed the runs through the present day, when stormwa­ter, cul­verts, lega­cy dams, salmon farms, and a legion of oth­er prac­tices block the recov­ery of near­ly all salmon stocks. As Nisqually fish­er­man and life­long trib­al advo­cate Bil­ly Frank, Jr. not­ed many times in his col­umn, “Being Frank,” the false notion that trib­al har­vest is respon­si­ble for salmon decline has per­sist­ed for near­ly 150 years, despite over­whelm­ing his­tor­i­cal, trib­al, and sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence that dams and habi­tat degra­da­tion were dev­as­tat­ing and con­tin­ue to impede recov­ery.

In recent years, the tro­phy fish­ing orga­ni­za­tion Wild Steel­head Fed­er­a­tion has repeat­ed­ly sued state and trib­al hatch­ery man­agers in Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, seek­ing to close hatch­eries. Because of habi­tat destruc­tion, water diver­sion, and dams, these hatch­eries sup­port trib­al cer­e­mo­ni­al and sub­sis­tence har­vest as well as com­mer­cial and sport har­vests. The Fed­er­a­tion argues that the hatch­ery fish suf­fer from inbreed­ing, which reduces their fit­ness and also their fight­ing spir­it at the end of the hook (“Wild Steel­head Research on the Sauk and Skag­it Rivers”).3 That is, fish that began their lives in hatch­eries are fig­ured as less nat­ur­al than “wild” fish who swim out of grav­el in a “nat­ur­al” stream. But why the obses­sion with wild­ness and nat­u­ral­ness among recre­ation­ists who dri­ve many miles to their fish­ing spots, pass­ing on the way the farms that pro­duce the food they eat (since they do not eat their catch) and the clear-cut forests that enclose the small patch­es of pro­tect­ed state and nation­al parks where they go to fish? Is it because these unnat­ur­al fish insult set­tler mas­culin­i­ty by inter­fer­ing in their sports­man­like pur­suit of “good fighters”—as they term non-hatch­ery steelhead—in Nature they fig­ure as untram­meled?

Conclusion: Figuring land as relation

Anishi­naabeg schol­ar Leanne Betasamosake Simp­son links set­tler impo­si­tion of het­eropa­tri­archy on Indige­nous gen­der rela­tions to cap­i­tal­ist resource extrac­tion projects:

Real­ly what the col­o­niz­ers have always been try­ing to fig­ure out is “How do you extract nat­ur­al resources from the land when the people’s whose ter­ri­to­ry you’re on believe that those plant, ani­mal and min­er­als have both spir­it and there­fore agency?”…  You use gen­der vio­lence to remove Indige­nous peo­ples and their descen­dants from the land, you remove agency from the plant and ani­mal worlds and you repo­si­tion aki (the land) as “nat­ur­al resources” for the use and bet­ter­ment of white peo­ple (Simp­son).

In fig­ur­ing aki as fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from “nat­ur­al resources,” Simp­son links Nature as a con­cept and abstrac­tion to the sup­pres­sion of Indige­nous gen­der and sex­u­al rela­tions and to ways of relat­ing to land, water, and its con­stituent species. Also riff­ing on aki, Potawatomi/Anishinaabe sci­en­tist and writer Robin Hall Kim­mer­er writes, “If we are to sur­vive here—and if our neigh­bors are to sur­vive, too—we [Eng­lish speak­ers] need to learn to speak the gram­mar of ani­ma­cy” (368) In a move that gen­der-non-con­form­ing human peo­ple would rec­og­nize, Kim­mer­er pro­pos­es a new pro­noun for more-than-human kin: “Just a small thing: let us replace the word ‘it,’ the pro­noun we use for non-human beings, with a new pro­noun: not ‘he’ or ‘she,’ but ‘ki,’ from aki, to sig­ni­fy ani­mate, being of the Earth. So that when we speak of the sug­ar maple, we say ‘Oh, that beau­ti­ful tree, ki is giv­ing us sap again this spring’” (368)

Fur­ther lin­guis­tic adap­ta­tions can (fur­ther) trou­ble nature and the nat­ur­al. In the call for this spe­cial issue, Siske­ton-Wah­peton schol­ar Kim Tall­Bear and set­tler schol­ar Angela Wil­ley high­light the set­tler notion of “nat­ur­al” as a provo­ca­tion for think­ing about set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties in rela­tion to col­o­niza­tion projects: “Ideas of what is nat­ur­al are always para­mount in set­tler invo­ca­tions of what are con­sid­ered the right ways to relate.” Queers have lots of expe­ri­ence with being fig­ured as unnat­ur­al; a queer eco­log­i­cal stance rev­els in trou­bling the var­i­ous sens­es of “nat­ur­al.” One sense (from Mid­dle Eng­lish via Old French, “hav­ing a cer­tain sta­tus by birth”) is of an innate qual­i­ty or abil­i­ty, some­thing that comes instinc­tive­ly to a per­son, or a char­ac­ter of per­son­al­i­ty that is relaxed, unaf­fect­ed, spon­ta­neous. Anoth­er, relat­ed sense is “sim­ple, unaf­fect­ed, easy,” of being in agree­ment with the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing some­one, as in sharks have no nat­ur­al ene­mies, or occur­ring with­out debate. The set­tler invo­ca­tions of right rela­tions Tall­Bear and Wil­ley invoke rely on this last sense of inevitabil­i­ty. I see this inevitabil­i­ty as deriv­a­tive of “not unusu­al, excep­tion­al, irreg­u­lar, or mirac­u­lous” and also “formed by nature; not sub­ject to human inter­ven­tion, not arti­fi­cial.” Yet anoth­er sense of nat­ur­al is at work in dis­cours­es of the wilder­ness sub­lime devel­oped by Tran­scen­den­tal­ists and their descendants—a rework­ing the archa­ic Chris­t­ian doc­trine def­i­n­i­tion (“relat­ing to earth­ly or unre­deemed human or phys­i­cal nature as dis­tinct from the spir­i­tu­al or super­nat­ur­al realm”).4 The main­stream U.S. envi­ron­men­tal move­ment and the nat­ur­al sci­ences arise from the doc­tri­nal divi­sion: nat­ur­al as “exist­ing in nature” is defined as not made or caused by humankind. The eli­sion of these sens­es of the natural—innate and inevitable in (set­tler) bod­ies and cul­tur­al forms—and the earthly—not made by humankind—came togeth­er with destruc­tive pow­er in the doc­trine of Man­i­fest Des­tiny and oth­er set­tler-colo­nial projects.

Images of set­tler elites paint­ing and fish­ing on a vir­gin pris­tine McCloud, in the “reclaimed” land­scape of the just-flood­ed Miller­ton Reser­voir, the Rain­bow Ran­cho trout ponds scraped out of the high desert, or on pon­toon boats on Lake Shas­ta over a riv­er drowned now for most of a cen­tu­ry evoke these dif­fer­ent sens­es of the nat­ur­al as para­mount in set­tler het­ero­nor­ma­tiv­i­ty, by high­light­ing how set­tler sex­u­al and famil­ial rela­tions erase Indige­nous lives co-con­sti­tut­ed with more-than-human rela­tions.

Indige­nous the­o­ries of land rela­tions threat­ens the set­tler con­cepts of pris­tine nature; as Kim Tall­Bear has argued, they also chal­lenge patri­ar­chal notions of the nuclear fam­i­ly with extend­ed famil­ial, adop­tion, and non-repro­duc­tive kin-mak­ing prac­tices (Tall­Bear; Tall­Bear). In review­ing an archive of pho­tographs that depict set­tler-trout rela­tions in Cal­i­for­nia, I have argued that label­ing either nor­ma­tive set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties and gen­der rela­tions or the flood­ed spawn­ing grounds as unnat­ur­al threat­ens co-con­sti­tut­ed set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties and rework­ings of “nat­ur­al” land­scapes.

Read­ing across the grain of the archives of fish­eries sci­ence, I have con­sid­ered fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ings of salmon ecol­o­gy by set­tlers in the late-19th and ear­ly-20th cen­turies as bound up in set­tler sex­u­al­i­ties as well as repro­duc­tion of fish and the white fam­i­ly. Set­tler sep­a­ra­tion of ethics and rela­tions from sci­ence per­pet­u­ate geno­ci­dal poli­cies and poten­tial­ly con­demn the salmon to extinc­tion. Sex with­out pas­sion, death and killing with­out love, and excep­tion­al­ism root­ed in set­tler mas­culin­i­ties still evoke a tox­ic fron­tier nos­tal­gia that haunts set­tler fish­ery sci­ence.

Works Cited

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Notes

  1. For an overview of this debate, com­pare these two arti­cles: (Loomis; Williams)
  2. For an extend­ed treat­ment of Bil­ly Frank’s artic­u­la­tions of salmon treaty rights, reci­procity, and eco­cul­tur­al rela­tions among Puget Sound / Sal­ish Sea tribes and salmon, see Whyte, Food Sov­er­eign­ty, Jus­tice and Indige­nous Peo­ples)
  3. Bil­ly Frank, Jr., writ­ing for the North­west Indi­an Fish­eries Com­mis­sion, artic­u­lat­ed the ongo­ing need for hatch­eries as essen­tial for trib­al and non-trib­al fish­ing: “Lost and dam­aged habi­tat, not hatch­eries or har­vest, is what’s dri­ving wild steel­head and salmon pop­u­la­tions toward extinc­tion,” Frank said. “The focus needs to be on fix­ing and pro­tect­ing habi­tat, not fight­ing over hatch­eries and the fish they pro­duce. Cli­mate change and explod­ing pop­u­la­tion growth are only mak­ing our habi­tat prob­lems worse, which in turn makes hatch­eries even more impor­tant for wild fish and all of us” (Frank Jr and Frank Jr)
  4. (All quotes this page from OED Online, “Nat­ur­al, Adj. and Adv.”)