Like a fish to water

By Amanda Meyer
Salmon swimming in water

Rachel DeWildeRachel DeWilde thinks of her time at Bishop Mountain, her family’s fish camp on the Yukon River, as “before” and “now.”

“Before” means catching, cleaning and putting away about 50 salmon a day. “Now” means a mere 20 – 30 a day.

“Now” also means DeWilde is at UAF learning about fish genetics so someday she can go back to Bishop Mountain and find out the reasons for salmon declines.

“Bishop Mountain is fundamental to who I am,” she says. “There’s a freedom, wildness and culture about fish camp. It would be devastating to think what will happen if subsistence fishing goes away. I wonder, what will happen to rural culture?”

DeWilde was 14 when she first heard about the salmon run decrease. It took a while for stories to travel from the older people to the younger. Watching the salmon get smaller and less abundant made her worry for the future of her generation of Native people, but she didn’t have the tools to help. She didn’t even know there were tools she could use.