Myra Sohappy, 79, who worked with her husband to obtain fishing rights for Native Americans, died Friday in Toppenish, Wash., of complications after surgery for a dislocated hip.
In the 1960s, Sohappy and her husband, David, were living at Cook's Landing on an isolated stretch of the Columbia River. They fished for food in their subsistence lifestyle and ran afoul of state and federal fishing authorities. Litigation resulting from federal charges against David Sohappy in 1969 became a test case for Indian fishing rights.
In 1974, U.S. District Judge George Boldt, citing 19th century treaties, allocated half of Washington state's harvestable salmon to Indian tribes. The decision has been called the most significant ruling on Indian treaty law in the 20th century.