Paul VanDevelder, Salmon, Josephy, “dominionists,”…

Al Josephy shot me an email last week with a link to an op ed piece in the Oregonian by Paul VanDevelder. It was called “The reckoning: A looming decision on endangered salmon will set the stage for momentous battles over the future.”

“Sometime this spring,” it begins, “a federal district court judge in Portland will render a decision based on the federal Endangered Species Act that will determine the fate of two dozen endangered salmon stocks that spawn in rivers from Sacramento to British Columbia….

“Judge James A. Redden’s decision promises to be as momentous as any court-ordered environmental remedy in our lifetimes, the Dred Scott of environmental law. Of the many battles waged in the wake of the Endangered Species Act, no other beast, fish or fowl has created a more politically charged — or more expensive — fight than West Coast salmon.”

VanDevelder goes on to give a concise blow by blow of Salmon politics, which I thought was good. So I found his web site and wrote to him, telling him so and apologizing for not knowing his books–Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial That Forged a Nation, and Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America’s Road to Empire Through Indian Territory. I told him that I am working with Alvin Josephy’s books and legacy and that I am increasingly struck by Alvin’s finding the path to environmental issues and concerns through Indians.

And that I had just read a speech Alvin made in Oklahoma in 1992, one of many times he commented on Columbus and the 500 years since his arrival, in which he talks about euro-centrism and “dominion” over the rest of creation that Columbus and his followers brought to the Americas. (Paul refers continually to “dominionist” views in his op ed piece.)

Paul immediately shot back “You just identified the fork in the road that changed my life.” He said that Sierra Magazine had asked him to do a story on Indians and Environment in 1993, that Alvin had been an important influence in his early writing career, and that “Alvin would have LOVED Savages…in many ways, it’s a story he told in his own way many times. That said, I do think there’s a lot of new stuff in there…” So the books will soon be in the Josephy Library, and I am going to read them. Oh– Savages and Scoundrels has just been nominated for an Oregon Book Award!

The exchange continues–with Paul having lived in Mexico City and having a godfather who was the prosecutor in the Trotsky murder case (Alvin’s interview with Trotsky in 1937 was just months before the assassination) and some mutual friends named Jackson.. It is a small world.

Here’s the Oregonian piece: