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Scott Schuyler Upper Skagit Tribal Representative

First Interview, Upper Skagit Tribal Representative
by Susan Frampton, Earthwatch Teacher Fellow, Delaware

Our first interview was with Scott Schuyler at the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe's Community Center. It was very exciting to think about interviewing someone this important for my first interview. Schuyler is the representative for his tribe to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, an organization made up of tribes from Washington, Oregon, and California. The commission negotiates tribal policies on fishing.

The interview took place in the tribal council's meeting room. On this particular interview, I was the sound engineer, which made me extremely nervous knowing that if I made a mistake there would be no audio record of the interview. I also took extremely detailed notes, which turned out to be to my benefit as we were asked to type up our notes with the exact tracks for each theme that the interviewee discussed.

Schuyler began by describing his role in the tribe as leader of the fisheries section. He has been involved in tribal matters for over 19 years. He is often the first person to know when an issue comes up within the tribe dealing with fisheries.

He said that in recent years fewer people in his tribe are fishing for a living, even though the numbers of fish upriver have been good. The reason they are not fishing is because they cannot sell the fish they catch. Schuyler explained that consumers seem to prefer to buy the salmon caught in the ocean to the upriver fish. The meat color of the "saltwater" salmon is darker, contains more fat, and is more appetizing in appearance than the fish his tribe is able to catch in the river.

He said that when fishing is not productive for the tribe, the tribal council must ask fishers not to fish, and provide other sources of economic aid to the tribe.

In looking towards the future, Schuyler expressed concern for his children. He hoped they would not become tribal fishers, but rather go to college and return home after receiving training. The most effective place for them would be to take their place as educated, well-informed leaders of the tribe. He said that presently non-tribe members fill many positions on tribal advisory committees.

Photos courtesy of Earthwatch