My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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Two fishermen, Mr. Jacob Seldeniust and Mr. Thomas Hanbury, came to see me this afternoon, brought by their Representative, Mr. Dimond of Alaska. One of them represents the white fishermen of his district and the other one was a native Indian, born in Alaska and they had come in support of a bill to do away with fish traps and allow only fishing by seines for salmon.

We sat down and drank coffee together and ate diminuitive cakes and I felt quite sure that they would go back and report that I did not provide very satisfying food. I did not dare say much about what was brought to them, however, for I knew the household was preparing for something like one thousand people for tea between four and six! There is such a thing as the last straw that breaks the camel's back so I accepted whatever was brought without a murmur and tried to act as though diminuitive cakes were the fashion in Washington!

I was tremendously interested to have the Alaskan of Indian descent explain to me clearly his feeling that this was a necessary conservation measure. "In a few years history will say that once there were salmon along these coasts and in these rivers but fish traps destroyed them all." He told me: "We caught only red fish in the old days, but there's only pink fish left—what you have in cans." His tone plainly conveyed the thought that those who were satisfied with pink salmon were decidedly ignorant of what was really good. I acknowledged my absymal ignorance but said I did know something about fishermen and their lives on the east coast. I could understand the ring of earnestness in his voice when he said: "We used to make a living, own boats, build our own houses, now we are no longer independent."

I do not know what will happen, nor what should happen for these fishermen of the Alaskan Coast, but there was something in his attitude which made me hope that something at least might be done so they could again earn a livelihood.

TMsd 22 January 1936, AERP, FDRL