Suckers, trash fish and the fight over food traditions in Oregon’s Klamath Basin

Suckers, trash fish and the fight over food traditions in Oregon’s Klamath Basin

Fight to save fish tells story of how European food preferences clashed with tribal systems, shaping what we choose to protect

Perry Chocktoot remembers the last time he ate a C’waam suckerfish. It was 1984. The fish was canned by a Klamath Tribes member and served with Tabasco. After finishing off the meat, Chocktoot was left with a tin of smoky fish oil mixed with hot sauce. “We just tipped it back and drank it,” Chocktoot recalled. “It was so good.”

Just four years later, the C’waam and its cousin the Koptu were put on the endangered species list. Since then, for more than three decades, no member of the Klamath Tribes has legally harvested the species, which are endemic to a lake and series of rivers in southern Oregon known as the Klamath Basin and once formed the backbone to the tribes’ seasonal food system.

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