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Lorraine Loomis dies at 81, remembered for tirelessly fighting for NW Tribes

Lorraine Loomis, the chairperson for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) and Swinomish fisheries manager, died on Aug. 10 at the age of 81. 

Loomis was a long-time force in Washington state fisheries, first becoming the fisheries manager for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community after the 1974 Boldt decision, a statement from Northwest Treaty Tribes says. The decision reaffirmed the treaty-protected rights of tribes to fish. Before that, she worked in fish processing beginning in 1970. 

Loomis worked tirelessly, fighting for treaty rights for all treaty tribes in western Washington, the statement said. Loomis served as the NWIFC commissioner for more than four decades, and as vice chair from 1995 until 2014 when she became chairperson, following the death of Billy Frank Jr

“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Lorraine Loomis, who dedicated her life to defending tribal treaty rights,” said Justin Parker, NWIFC executive director, said in the press release. “Our thoughts are with the Wilbur family and the entire Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. She also was the matriarch of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission family, leading us for decades in fisheries management.”

Loomis also served as the lead negotiator for tribes in the North of Falcon salmon fisheries planning process with Washington state. Additionally, Loomis helped develop and implement the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty. 

Stillaguamish Chairman and NWIFC Vice Chair Shawn Yanity said the following in the press release:

“We have been rocked by another tremendous loss. Prayers for the family and all of us. Her powerful leadership, guidance, friendship and presence will be missed.”

Loomis was remembered by Washington state representatives as well. 

“Yesterday, Washington state lost a champion in the fight to protect salmon habitat and tribal sovereignty,” said House Speaker Laurie Jinkins in a statement. “…My thoughts go out to her family, the entire Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and all those who worked at her side. While our hearts are heavy with the loss, her legacy will live on in the continued work to protect the salmon and our natural resources for future generations.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee issued the following statement:

“She was strong leader and tireless advocate for tribal treaty rights. As a tribal elder, community leader and friend to many, her gentle voice will echo loudly for future generations. Trudi and I extend our sincere sympathies to Lorraine’s family, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and all other tribal communities that mourn the loss of this amazing leader. Washington is a little less bright without her.”

And Rep. Debra Lekanoff said this:

“For over four decades, Lorraine was a leader and teacher for the Northwest Treaty Tribes, helping to guide countless individuals and always ensuring that there were seats at the table for everyone. Her work has brought us so far, and with all of the lessons she leaves behind we will accomplish even greater things.

I will always be thankful for the teachings and wisdom Lorraine shared with us all. She built fierce women treaty warriors who will carry on her legacy to ensure that seven generations of our children will live the dream that passes down from our elders.”

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