Salmon, an icon and backbone of the Pacific Northwest, has a way of bringing people together. Since time immemorial, the salmon has been respected for its strength and selflessness. It is considered a vital and sacred element of the environment, intertwined with healthy landscapes and the cultural identity of many tribes. In the past, salmon were a common and plentiful sight as they migrated upstream to spawn.
However, salmon populations have been rapidly declining for decades, especially in the Snake River where a series of dams block the species’ safe passage. Special guest Chairman Samuel N. Penney spoke about how the Nez Perce Tribe (Nimiipuu) are working to change that. They have been leaders in the fight to breach the four lower Snake River dams, but now more than ever, time is of the essence.
Samuel N. Penney is the Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (“NPTEC”), the nine-member governing body of the Nez Perce Tribe. Chairman Penney is currently serving his tenth three-year term on NPTEC—15 years as Chairman and four years as Vice-Chairman. Chairman Penney has also served on several boards and commissions of different organizations, including the Executive Board of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, a Northwest Region delegate to the National Indian Gaming Association Board of Directors, and an Idaho representative to Environmental Protection Agency Region 10-Tribal Operations Committee. He has served on Native American advisory boards for the Presidents of Washington State University, University of Idaho, and Lewis-Clark State College. Chairman Penney received the President’s Medallion from Lewis-Clark State College in 2003 for his dedication to promoting educational opportunities for Native American youth. Chairman Penney has always advocated to protect the Nez Perce Tribe’s treaty rights and natural resources on issues, including air quality, water quality, land exchanges, and mega-loads because land, water, and air are critical to the Nez Perce way of life. Chairman Penney defended the Nez Perce Tribe against attacks on tribal sovereignty by the North Central Idaho Jurisdictional Alliance (“NCIJA”). The Harvard Executive Leadership Training educated the NCIJA about the rights of the Nez Perce Tribe and tribal membership. On May 17, 2003, the University of Idaho conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Doctor of Administrative Science to Chairman Penney for helping to improve tribal-local relationships.