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Inside Olympia — The Boldt Decision

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50 years ago Judge George Hugo Boldt of the federal court in Tacoma issued an historic decision that continues to ripple to this day. The “Boldt Decision” defined treaty fishing rights for native tribes in Washington and gave them the right to up to 50% of the harvestable fish. The decision spawned angry outcry from non-native commercial and recreational fishermen, and was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Who was Judge Boldt, and what is the story behind his decision? Host Austin Jenkins explores that question with John Hughes, Chief Historian for the WA Secretary of State’s Legacy Washington project and author of “Lightning Boldt: Judge George H. Boldt, and a Defining Moment in Tribal Sovereignty,” and Edward Echtle Jr., Oral Historian with Legacy Washington and author of a soon-to-be-released book, “Confluence – The Boldt Decision at 50: Stories of Conflict and Collaboration.”

John Hughes was a young reporter at the Aberdeen Daily World in 1973, and actually covered the Boldt case. His view of Boldt’s decision? “He handed down the most consequential ruling on civil rights in the history of the Northwest, and arguably in the United States of America.” Yet, tribes had serious reservations about Boldt, when it was known he would hear the case. And following the decision, Boldt was pilloried, even hung in effigy by non-native fishermen.

This week on Inside Olympia – get the back story behind Judge Boldt, his decision, and the implications of that decision for policies regarding tribes and natural resources that continue to be felt to this day.