Meet our Guests: Joe McCormack


Joe McCormack

Nez Perce Tribal Fisherman

Wallowa County, OR


Joe McCormack is a rancher, a Vietnam veteran, a fisherman, a watershed expert, and the only Nez Perce tribe member to still reside full-time in Wallowa County. He speaks with a slow, steady voice as his eyes move between each of us in the circle. The emotion not conveyed in his tone is communicated when his face cracks into a brilliant grin. Pausing mid sentence, to select from his plethora of stories and experiences, he shares the story of the Nez Perce on this land, the forced treaties, and dislocation that drove out his ancestors. Through this, he dismisses the notion that treaties “granted” the Nez Perce the right to the fish in these waters. Rather, Joe makes it clear that his people “reserved” a right that had always been theirs. He speaks of the abundance that these watersheds once held, and is dedicated to restoring those fish populations by collaboratively working with tribal and governmental agencies in order to manage the watersheds. The importance of this work is to increase the populations, even through the use of hatchery-raised fish. For Joe, the issue is not where the fish come from, but whether there are enough fish in the watershed for the Nez Perce to do as they always have.

By: Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock