Publication Title

Ocean and Coastal Law Journal


Indian tribes, salmon

Document Type



I want to address my remarks to the students of the University of Maine School of Law who will face a great deal of unfinished legal business on the topics of salmon, Indian tribes, and environmental law.

Elsewhere, I have derived what I describe as the five virtues of effective action (genius, high-leveraging, symbolism, optimism, courage). People of achievement, lawyers or otherwise, are familiar with these virtues and display them in many creative forms.

Next, I will peer through this lens of effective action at some key moments in the history of Atlantic-Pacific Salmon Interactions. This coming together has been a process of colonization, east to west, as Maine sent its people, ideas, technology, and laws to the Pacific Northwest.

Many of these initiatives landed on the Indian tribes of the region whose cultural and legal connections to the great salmon are legendary. Many were resisted, modified, rejected. Tribal responses to the colonists' salmon dreams have filled the law books with stories of justice and injustice. The grave charge against the virtues of effective action is that they are "gray" virtues-equally serviceable to fashioners of the malign as well as the instigators of the benign.

It is unarguably true that in the last one-hundred fifty years, the combination of human actions, many of them creative, novel, and highly "effective," have driven natural stocks of salmon (Atlantic and Pacific) to the brink of extinction. This sad reality invites comment on a short list of environmental lawsuits that have "salmon" and "Maine" in the captions.

I am happy to bequeath to my students at the University of Maine the responsibility for saving the legacies at issue in these cases.

[This article is an adaptation of a speech given at the University of Maine School of Law in the Spring of 2002.]



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