1 month ago
For #IndigenousPeoplesDay , I’m sharing photographs made at the Kwantlen first salmon ceremony I was lucky enough to be invited to last month.
First salmon ceremonies differ from tribe to tribe, but all have some themes in common. The salmon chief of the tribe will select a fisher to catch the first salmon of the year. This is an honour, and before entering the river the fisher will undergo a blessing, or purification. Once a fish is caught, it’s brought to shore and carefully prepared, cooked and distributed to the people in a ceremony that is unique to the location and tribe. The head of the fish is pointed upriver to show the salmon’s spirit the way home. The bones are carefully cleaned and returned to the river, where it’s believed the salmon will reconstitute itself and continue its journey. There is an underlying theme of respect for the salmon as a gift, and the hope that by properly respecting the fish the salmon king will continue his benevolence through the coming months of salmon returns, and again the following year.
Kwantlen’s ceremony felt particularly urgent at a time we are witnessing restrictions on salmon fishing quotas in British Columbia due to frightening declines of Chinook salmon. Could it be that future such ceremonies will cease to exist? It was humbling to be part of such a powerful cultural event, but I left feeling a mixture of wonder and sadness, as I think about the future for our salmon, who seem stuck between a rock and an exceptionally hard place.
Thank you to Chief Marilyn Gabriel and Donna Leon for having me along to this special day.
Part of my new project The Last Salmon Run, for @insidenatgeo.