Fish War

USA | 2024 | 79 min. | Jeff Ostenson, Charles Atkinson, Skylar Wagner

In 1974, a conservative federal judge upheld Indigenous fishing rights in Washington, ending violent clashes with law enforcement and laying the foundation for environmental stewardship in this locally produced activism documentary.

Executive Producers Ed Johnstone & Justin Parker, Producer Kari Neumeyer and Producer and Nisqually Chairman Willie Frank III scheduled to attend.

Salmon are the lifeblood for many Indigenous communities in Washington. When the state government all but cut off their fishing access in apparent violation of an 1855 treaty, the tribes refused to take it lying down. They saw their fight as part of the growing civil rights movement across the country and capitalized on their penchant for peaceful disobedience and protest to draw national attention to their plight. Their dogged work earned them a day in court but, instead of settling the issue of fishing rights, a landmark decision by a conservative judge triggered a decades-long battle between the tribes, the government, and non-Indigenous fishermen. With support from the Northwest Treaty Tribes, Fish War uses rare archival footage and the insight of activists on the front lines of the fight to trace the battle from its origins in the ’60s to today while interrogating what guaranteed fishing rights truly mean in the face of a climate crisis and human intervention.

—Betsy Cass

  • Director: Jeff Ostenson, Charles Atkinson, Skylar Wagner
  • Principal Cast: Willie Frank III, Ramona Bennett, Ed Johnstone, Lisa Wilson, Michael Grayum
  • Premiere Status: World
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2024
  • Running Time: 79 min.
  • Producer: Kari Neumeyer, Jeff Ostenson, Tiffany Royal
  • Cinematographers: Charles Atkinson
  • Editors: Skylar Wagner
  • Music: Black Belt Eagle Scout
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Language: English