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Watching even the “cultural” reintroduction of salmon to local waters denied to them for eight decades can inspire wonder, grief, admiration, joy, hope, questions, and anticipation.

Over the last couple weeks, as the Colville Tribes and a coalition of other tribes and state and federal agencies have held ceremonial plantings of hatchery Chinook salmon above the dams that keep them from spawning in the upper Columbia River, the meaning to the tribes of the return of the fish echos like an eternal drum off a canyon wall, deeply felt and acute.

But for anyone not a tribal member, and not a...



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