Yellowhead Hwy, British Columbia – Changing Native traditions

The Yellowhead Trail guides us to the south. In ‘Ksan, a historic Indian village, we are visiting some naves that are built a copy of ancient originals and contain a school of arts for traditional wood carving, a museum, and an art exhibition. A couple of totem poles were erected, some of them copies of historic totems. A few kilometres further, in the Gitxan Indian village Kispiox, you can find 15 more piles carved from red cedar wood. By the way, totem poles are read from solid plinth to the figure on top that points to the sky and unlimited possibilities. Ironically – or shall it express hope? – the upper figure of the totem, erected in remembrance of the open-air museum’s opening 1970 in ‘Ksan, depicts a white government representative in upright posture with top hat and bow tie. Underneath symbols for the local clans like eagle, wolf, fish, and mosquito are found.

35 km south Bulkley River has to pass the narrow Moricetown Canyon. Under a raging waterfall salmon pile up to wait for the right moment to jump upstream. The Wet’suwet’en-Indians living there kept for years their right to stick the salmon with hook-armoured rods. We stay with the salmon fishers for long time but have only once the opportunity to watch the traditional catching method. Even for the First Nations times have changed. The number of fish, especially the popular Jack Sockeye, decreases. The Natives have built a fish ladder to make ascend easier for the salmon. Most fishes are caught today with a dip net; they are weighed, measured, and registered. Only every third fish is intended to be food for the community, the other animals are bundled off into a water container, loaded onto pick-ups and abandoned upstream to improve their chances to spawn. The salmon dedicated to consumption are distributed only among the Indian community members, and they are as well registered to make sure distribution happens justly. There is a single sales outlet where outsiders can buy fresh and smoked salmon for steep prices.

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