Johnny Jackson: “It Took Two Men to Pull” Fish out of Celilo Falls

Johnny Jackson (Yakama, Cascades) talks about fishing at Celilo Falls with his family. 1:29.

Bio: Johnny Jackson is a respected elder and honorary Columbia River Chief representing the Cascades Band. He served in the army in the ‘50s and has been a fisherman for many years. Currently, he serves as a Yakama Commissioner for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission’s (CRITFC). Johnny Jackson is not only a strong advocate for fishing rights, but is outspoken in preserving cultural places and protecting places/resources from further development and deterioration. He lives near the confluence of the Columbia and White Salmon rivers in Underwood, WA.


“Where my uncles fished it took two men to pull, one man hanging on to the big pole and one to hold the rope. So when the fish hit the water was so strong when would be pulling the pole and the other pulling the rope up to get that fish out before he got out. That’s when the fish were strong, not like today. You see that on that island you can see the falls were 20, 30 foot deep. The water was that thick–you could see a steelhead, a chinook jump. If he get inside that water he went over. We used to look at him–it was wartime, we used to look at him and go there goes another torpedo. Because it, seeing them move, it was torpedo. Seeing those fish go over we used to call them torpedo, as kids. We used to watch them. That’s how strong the fish was in those days. The Falls made them strong. The struggle and struggle and all the fighting going back up to Columbia.”

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