Longtime tribal fisheries advocate Lorraine Loomis of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community died Tuesday. She was 81.
Loomis spent the last about 40 years serving the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, most recently as chairperson. She began her career in fisheries working in fish processing in 1970, and then became fisheries manager for her home tribe following the 1974 Boldt decision that reaffirmed tribes’ treaty-protected fishing rights.
“I love fisheries management,” she said at one time, according to a Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission news release. “When we have a fishery opening ... you see the happy faces of the tribal fishermen.”
Many who saw Loomis make securing those smiles her life’s work are grieving her loss, from family to commission staff.
“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Lorraine Loomis, who dedicated her life to defending tribal treaty rights,” commission Executive Director Justin Parker said in the release. Parker referred to Loomis, a Swinomish elder, as a matriarch of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission family.
During her time with the commission, Loomis served as vice chair from 1995 to 2014, then as chairperson following the passing of renowned treaty fishing activist Billy Frank Jr. In 2020, Loomis was honored with the Billy Frank Jr. Leadership Award for her work.
Chairperson of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is the lead negotiator for tribes in the North of Falcon salmon fisheries planning process with the state of Washington. Loomis was also involved in developing the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, served on the Fraser River Panel that manages sockeye and pink salmon, and encouraged local restoration and research for salmon and shellfish.
“I can’t put in words how much I’m going to miss her spirit in my world,” W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission commissioner, said of Loomis. “She made a difference for all of us just like Billy. Now we have both their spirits to keep us moving forward to protect and restore our salmon.”
Loomis, who took over the commission’s Being Frank column after becoming chairperson, said she believed in fighting for and protecting fisheries for the future.
“None of us tribal natural resources managers are working for today. We are all working for tomorrow. We are working to make certain there will be salmon for the next seven generations,” she once wrote.