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For the week of Mar. 15 through Mar. 21, 2000

Sound of a Drumbeat

A Native American’s plea for the salmon

"We grew up with salmon at our feasts. It’s part of our tradition, our culture." - Lilisa Moses, Nez Perce Native American

Express Editor

Lilisa Moses (Tsots’yaala), Nez Perce NationPhoto Caption: Lilisa Moses, Nez Perce Native American. Express photo by Ron Soble

Sound of a Drumbeat Coming up Through Water is her Native American name.

To the panel of federal officials she introduced herself as Lilisa Moses, of the Nez Perce Nation at Lapwai, Idaho, a few miles north of Lewiston.

At last Wednesday night’s hearing on salmon recovery in Twin Falls, she told federal officials she drove seven hours to make a statement.

In all, she said, it was a 14-hour roundtrip so that she could verbalize her deep concerns over potential extinction of salmon and its impact on her tribal culture.

Breach the dams, she pleaded in a clear, steady voice.

Her statement was limited to three minutes.

Fourteen hours for three minutes of testimony—why?

"It’s something I believe in," the 20-year-old Native American said later in an interview. "We grew up with salmon at our feasts. It’s part of our tradition, our culture."

She said she borrowed her mother’s 1986 Oldsmobile and, with her boyfriend, drove the distance, stopping in Boise the night before the hearing. She wasn’t nervous, she said, because it was her fifth three-minute distress call before the panel.

Her Northwest Odyssey on behalf of the salmon had taken her in recent months to nearby Clarkston, Wash., then farther away to hearings in Boise, Seattle, Missoula and, finally, Twin Falls.

A couple of times, two conservation groups—Idaho Rivers United and Save Our Wild Salmon—picked up the tab, providing a bus or van, or paying for gas, a room and food.

Tsots’yaala, her name in her native tongue, has five brothers and two sisters, ranging in age from 14 to 34. She recalled fishing with her father, now deceased, on the Columbia, the Middle Fork of the Salmon and other rivers, beginning at the age of 4.

Of her three minutes before the panel, she said, "I hope it will make a difference. I do believe they were listening to me."


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