Traditional risk assessments are designed to identify potential risks from exposure to contaminated food, water or air. Risk assessments are the foundation behind fish advisories, remediations and the use of Superfund Sites. Risk assessments are typically conducted using pre-determined variables, such as the average amount of fish eaten per day, or typical use of outdoor areas such as recreational fishing. These assessments are often inadequate for indigenous communities, which have unique cultural activities and often rely on subsistence fishing and/or harvesting. These activities can therefore place indigenous communities at increased risk which are not captured by typical risk assessments.


To improve risk assessments amongst indigenous communities, an understanding of unique traditional and cultural practices, as well as the associated legal and historical considerations is needed.


Tribes’ Unique, Political, Legal and Historical Circumstances: Implications for Research

In this module, Catherine O’Neill, JD and Nazune Menka provide an overview of the legal and historical context that surrounds tribal fishing rights. We have provided several recent articles that demonstrate the interconnectedness of the environment, fishing and indigenous culture.

Dwindling salmon and treaty rights in the Puget Sound.


Tribal commissions fight for fishing rights.


When the salmon come home.


Case study of traditional ecological knowledge: Returning Fire to the Land – Celebrating Traditional Knowledge and Fire

  • Recognizes how cultural knowledge and treaty law should be handled in resource management