“a ring of willow woven in the ends of their nets”

Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery is one of our partners for the Land & Sea project; Sonia Strobel, co-founder and Managing Director, recently forwarded this to us, an excerpt from Nick Claxton’s writing about his community’s successful reef net fishery revival:

The WSÁNEC people successfully governed their traditional fisheries for thousands of years, prior to contact.  This was not just because there were laws and rules in place, and that everybody followed them, but there was also a different way of thinking about fish and fishing, which included a profound respect.  At the end of the net, a ring of willow was woven into the net, which allowed some salmon to escape.  This is more than just a simple act of conservation (the main priority and narrow vision of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans).  It represents a profound respect for salmon.  It was believed that the runs of salmon were lineages, and if some were allowed to return to their home rivers, then those lineages would always continue.  The WSÁNEC people believe that all living things were once people, and they are respected as such.  The salmon are our relatives.  … Out of respect, when the first large sockeye was caught, a First Salmon Ceremony was conducted.  This was the WSÁNEC way to greet and welcome the king of all salmon.  The celebration would likely last up to ten days.  … Taking time to celebrate allowed for a major portion of the salmon stocks to return to their rivers to spawn, and to sustain those lineages or stocks.

Nicholas Xumthoult Claxton, “ ISTÁ SĆIÁNEW, ISTÁ SXOLE: ‘To Fish as Formerly:’ The Douglas Treaties and the WSÁNEĆ Reef-Net Fisheries.” In Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence, and Protection of Indigenous Nations, ed. Leanne Simpson. Winnepeg, Arbeiter Ring, 2008. 54-55.

If you are interested to learn more about First Nations perspectives on fisheries, please visit the extensive site for Indigenous Foundations at UBC