In a historic move, the Nisqually tribe is closing its most popular salmon season. After several years of fish declines, they believe it's necessary to save the fish from disappearing completely.
"Our Indian people have been fishing. That's been our way of life, that's been our culture, our history, our traditions," said Willie Frank III, a member of the Nisqually tribe.
Frank calls the Nisqually River his tribe's "medicine." The water connects generations of his people. It connects him to his father, longtime environmental activist Billy Frank Jr.
But standing there today, he says that connection faces historic challenge.
"It was tough to explain to our elders and our tribal members that we're not going to be able to fish this year, because of the lack of salmon,” Frank said.
For the first time ever, the Nisqually tribe won't fish for chum salmon. They're keeping the river closed, like they have since August.
"This is gold to us. To protect this water. To protect everything in the Puget Sound," Frank said.
Frank is targeting a wide audience. Lack of fish has brought with it plentiful tension among fishing stakeholders, as many say relationships between tribal and non-tribal fishermen are at their worst.
"From treaty fishermen, from non-treaty fishermen, the relationship is not there,” Frank said. “I think it's up for myself and other leaders to bring that back together.”
He wants to focus on habitat restoration, but in the meantime he believes the fish need a break from fishermen.
"We know it's not going to be one year. We know it's going to take five years. It might take a decade. We don't know, but we're willing to make the sacrifice," he said.
It's a sacrifice they see more like an investment.
"It's not about financial gain anymore, fishing for us,” Frank said. “It's about teaching younger generations, seeing the smile of our elders being out on this river."