What do Folks Think about Indian Issues?

We wanted to know how people feel about Indian issues in the Pacific Northwest and recently discovered that opinions are mixed.

In fact, opinions are pretty lumpy.

Take, for example, the issue of sea lions at the Columbia River.

For about 10 years the issue has been controversial, with hungry sea lions swimming up the Columbia and foraging on the salmon returning to spawn. Some folks adore the cute little critters while others are furious that the invading pinnipeds are eating the protected fish.

Problem is, most of the sea lions are protected, too.

While the news media tend to blame the sea lions, local residents (who blamed sea lions, too) also blamed politicians, the dams, the federal government, fishermen and environmental laws. But they also blamed—somewhat—Native American fishermen and Native American governments.

Drill down a little deeper and you find that the folks most likely to blame Indians embrace values that favor human control over the environment.

Researchers call this an “individualist” worldview, where individual freedoms tend to be more salient than community values.

Residents who agreed with statements such as “plants and animals exist primarily to be used by humans” and “the balance of nature is strong enough to cope with the impacts of industrialized nations” also thought Indian fishermen and governments shared the blame.

But the residents also felt that invading sea lions should be killed, if necessary. Removing sea lions would help protect salmon, which are integral to Northwest Indian culture and livelihood.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, journalism, Native Science, salmon, science, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What do Folks Think about Indian Issues?

  1. Susan Asher says:

    From my favorite PR teacher. The only PR teacher I learned anything worthwhile from at GSU. I had good writing professors there, but only one good PR teacher.


  2. Susan: thanks for such a sweet reply!


  3. conrad says:

    the sea lions have found an easier way to feed ’cause they have learned that it is easier to catch the fish in a river than the open sea ,,like the human,, the modern human needs to share with the sea lion,,after all ,,we arent trying to survive with our teeth,,heck most of the time we just want a cute picture,,and then go to the grocery to eat.


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