Respect the Salmon’s Entire Being

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Name: Kristy Pittman (Yurok & St̓át̓imc)
Grades: K-12
Subject Areas: Applied Design, Skills & Technologies; Art Education; Social Studies; Career Education; Indigenous Education.
Artefact /Place/ Skill: Respect the salmon’s entire being and learn to gut salmon.

Respect the salmon’s entire being and learn to gut salmon.

Making Space

How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?

  • This curriculum bundle was made to help with recognizing ceremony is in the ways we gather/harvest food and the respect that is given to the salmon before they arrive. Some ideas to help are finding the ways to label the guts of the salmon in the language of the territory you are on.  For example, salmon eggs in St̓át̓imcets is K̓úna7.  Learning to gut a salmon, or the insides helps children get a deeper appreciation for the salmon.  The idea behind this curriculum bundle is the children can get creative a make a salmon with intestines, fins and create different ways the meat is used.  In addition to learning who eats the guts that are not taken home.  Learning about what is not used by humans is still consumed by the animal people, connecting the circle and balance of the life we as Indigenous peoples live in.  Allowing students to get creative and sew, use clay, make salt dough, use items from nature, draw, create a play or write about the guts.  Trying to encompass as many different learning styles as possible to allow children to be unique.  Obviously, this can be made more complex or simpledepending on the age.
  • Making sure to respect the nation you are teaching about by looking over their history on their website. This can be achieved by googling their name, usually a history appears.  Making sure to give a general overview of the nation’s territory and their traditional dwellings but acknowledging Indigenous peoples live in houses like everyone else does today.  This information breaks the stereotype of pan Indian where all Indigenous peoples live in Tipis.”
  • Learn the creation histories of the territory you are on. This can be accomplished by asking the Indigenous Education department.  The creation histories are vital to understanding how to live life and be in the world.
  • Learning about how to properly understand Indigenous oral histories. A Haida Scholar, Dr. Wendy F. Smythe, K’ah Skáahluwaa explains traditional knowledge systems for the Haida and key ideas to be aware of when we work with different nations:

    “The cultural ways of knowing are important for meaning making. Meaning, if you use a knowledge system from the Haida community, you need to understand how the Haida think otherwise you are interpreting it through your own lens, and what you think its saying might not be what it’s saying at all” ( n.p. 2021). Haida Scholar Speakers Series – Episode 1 (October 28, 2021).

  • Cutting salmon is sharing intergenerational knowledge.
  • The art of gutting the salmon begins before the fish arrive with a first salmon ceremony. Hononring the salmon and thanking them for coming.  Fist salmon ceremonies look different depending on the territory. Here is an example of a first salmon ceremony in Oregon.
  • Making a tobacco offering for the first salmon and this looks different depending on the territory you are on.
  • Understanding the creation histories of the nation you are working with so you will be able to fully grasp the importance of learning to gut and clean the salmon to preserve it to respect the salmon for giving their life to feed the people.
  • Songs are also teachings on how to be in life and show respect to different beings. For example, here is a song honoring the Klamath River.
  • Finding different nations to determine their respect and value of salmon. For example, Chief Michelle speaks about what salmon mean to St̓át̓imc, “Salmon to me and my community is life.  That’s what it means to us and it has for generations and generations.  Salmon is integral” (Statimc Govt, 2016, n.p., Michelle).
  • In St’át’imc Territory many species of salmon were present all year round (Statimc Govt, 2016, n.p., Rany).
  • “ There are varying ways all people respect and utilize the gift of the salmon. Moreover, Menzies and Buttler offer some knowledge the greater public should implement, Traditional Ecological Knowledge “TEK has the potential to be a crucial tool in efforts toward both long-term sustainability and immediate resource conservation” ( 2007, p.458, Pittman, 2020).
  • It’s critical that we look after our fish it’s part of our family of our life’s blood of our history of our people it’s not a resource it’s a way of life for us” (Statimc Govt, 2016, n.p., Daryl).
  • Sources do not have to be from academic papers. Traditional Ecological Knowledge holds ancient teachings that have as much value as scholarly sources. YouTube has many rich recourses.  For example, Laurie explains the importance of the salmon and how much knowledge is held within the meat of the salmon and all the nutrients you receive when you are eating the fish, “the spirit of that fish the power of that salmon, the medicine from that salmon is what helps us get through the hard times because when you feel that fish, when you pull him out of the net you feel that power that little fish has.  That power is what drives them up that river.  That is what he is offering us” (River voices, 2021, n.p., Laurie).
  • St’át’imc are known for their wind dried salmon. The St’át’imc territory along the Fraser river is excellent spot for wind dry fish.  The heat from the sun heats up the rocks, the heat from the rocks rises and dries the salmon in addition to the important wind that sales through the canyon that dries the fish.  It takes about 5 to 10 days for the salmon to dry properly depending on the weather and the thickness of the cut.
  • Some nations smoke their fish over a low fire or in a smoke house.
  • These techniques are all used today as well as canning salmon to preserve it for several years. Freezing is an option but it doesn’t last as long as canning.
  • The importance of preserving the salmon is for respect the salmon and to feed your family.
  • Reading Dr. Meyer’s works greatly helps to shift thinking to an Indigenous view, she states, “We have to stop talking about land as property and real estate. That denotes a type of relationship to that piece, to that land base, to that capacity for us to have a relationship with it. That’s an intelligent idea that our people understood. Papa was not a metaphor for our mother, she was our mother, she is our mother. We must nurture and revive her ” (Voices of truth, 2007, n.p.,).
  • Salmon anatomy should be looked over;Googling the anatomy is helpful.

Practice Humility

How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?

  • Acknowledge the traditional oral history as true and not “made up.”
  • Acknowledge the wisdom, traditions and knowledge Elders have as valid, and that the teachings have been passed down from generation to generation therefore it is ancient, revered wisdom from our Ancestors that is still relevant today.
  • Acknowledge that salmon are our animal people, they are our relations.
  • Acknowledge that we are all a piece of a diverse ecosystem and we all play a part to sustain the balance.
  • Read the articles or videos under teacher resources to begin to decolonize their minds toward a more centered and holistic outlook to pass this information onto their students.
  • Teachers will understand they have an amazing opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of future students. Shaping future students minds and hearts will help bring a new generation thinking with their hearts for the betterment of the earth.
  • Keeping a variety of Indigenous books in the classroom all year around and not only in September.
  • If you have a question it is always good to ask. First, try to find the answer yourself through research.  If that is unsuccessful then you can ask the Indigenous support worker at your school if not then the Indigenous District Department.

Acknowledge Sources

What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?

Teacher Resources

Berkes, F. (2018). Sacred Ecology (4th ed.). Routledge.

First Nations Education Steering Committee (n.d.) Fist Peoples Principles of Learning. FNESC.

Hatcher, A., Bartlett, C., Marshall, A., & Marshall, M. (2009). Two-eyed seeing in the classroom environment: Concepts, approaches, and challenges. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 9(3), 141-153.

KCET. (2019, Nov 17). Restoring the River with the Yurok, Hupa, and Karuk; Tending Nature; Season 2, Episode 3; KCET. [Video]. YouTube.

Lepofsky, D., Llamazares, A.F., & Recalma-Clutesi, O., K, (2020, Jan 2) Indigenous song keepers reveal traditional ecological knowledge in music. The Conversation.

Marenus, M. (2020, June 09). Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences’. Simply Psychology.

Men Menzies, C. R., & Butler, C. R., (2007). Returning to Selective Fishing through Indigenous Fisheries Knowledge: The Example of K’moda, Gitxaala Territory. The American Indian Quarterly, 31(3). 441-464.

Meyer, M. A., (2008). Indigenous and Authentic: Hawaiian Epistemology and the Triangulation of Meaning. Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. 217-232.

Meyer, M. A. (2014). Hoea ea: Land education and food sovereignty in Hawaii Taylor & Francis. doi:10.1080/13504622.2013.852656

Pittman, K. (2021). Indigenous Taxonomy [Unpublished assignment submitted for ANTH 461] University of British Columbia.

R Reid, A.J., Eckert, L. E., Lane, J.F., Young, N., Hinch, S. G., Darimont, C., T., Cooke, S. J., Ban, N. C., Marshall, A. (2020). “Two-Eyed Seeing”: An Indigenous framework to transform fisheries research and management. Fish and Fisheries. 22(2). 243-261.

Snively, G., & Corsiglia, J, (n.d.) Chapter 7 – A Window into the Indigenous science of some Indigenous peoples of North America. BC Campus.

Statimc Govt. (2016, Feb 16). St’at’imc The Salmon People [Video]. YouTube.

Swalklanexw Dallas Guss (2021 Apr 7). First Salmon Ceremony Oregon. [Video] YouTube.

Walking Backwards Cultural Website. (2018, Nov 6). Klamath river water song – Franklin Thom, Káruk language teacher. [Video] YouTube.

Dancing Salmon Home-6 min edit

Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California Curriculum

**To understand Indigenous or Native humor the YouTube channel Patrick is a Navajo is an excellent resource.  Great laughs and awareness for more sources at the end of the shows.

**Amazing powerful music can also be found under the YouTube Channel


BC Curriculum Connections

How does it relate to BC Curriculum?

Click on the subject area below to expand the section.

K-12 Curriculum

  • Learning about indigenous peoples nurtures multicultural awareness and respect for diversity. – People from diverse cultures and societies share some common experiences and aspects of life. – Indigenous knowledge is passed down through oral history, traditions, and collective memory. Indigenous societies throughout the world value the well-being of the self, the land, spirits, and Ancestors.

  • Confidence develops through the process of self-discovery. – Strong communities are the result of being connected to family and community and working together toward common goals. – Effective collaboration relies on clear, respectful communication. – Everything we learn helps us to develop skills. – Communities include many different roles requiring many different skills. -Learning is a lifelong enterprise.

  • Movement skills and strategies help us learn how to participate in different types of physical activity. – Our physical, emotional, and mental health are interconnected.

  • skills can be developed through play.

  • The mind and body work together when creating works of art.  – Creative experiences involve an interplay between exploration, inquiry, and purposeful choice. – The arts connect our experiences to the experiences of others.

  • Language and story can be a source of creative joy. – Stories and other texts help us learn about ourselves, our families, and our communities. – Stories can be understood from different perspectives.

  • Fractions are a type of number that can represent quantities. – Standard units are used to describe, measure, and compare attributes of objects’ shapes.


First Peoples' Principles of Learning

Which First Peoples' Principles of Learning apply?

  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Learning involves patience and time.

Inviting Community

What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?

  • Speak with the Indigenous department at your local school. The Indigenous department has connections to local band offices to get in touch with the communities.
  • Feel free to go on YouTube and look up Northern Cree, Big River Cree, Fawn Wood, or any other Indigenous group and play round dance songs or powwow songs during activities. The drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  But it is extremely important to make sure the drum groups are Indigenous.  Some people in Europe are cultural appropriating the songs and are also on YouTube so beware.  Ensure the drum group is Indigenous so you share accurate songs with students.
  • Laura Grizzlypaws also has many beautiful songs, and educational talks online. Lara is the grizzly bear dancer and is a strong female role model.  She is St̓át̓imc and can be found on YouTube or by Googling her.

Indigenous Perspectives

How does your lesson relate to decolonization or reconciliation of education?

  • Contact the Indigenous department and they can connect you to a local band office or knowledge keeper. Reading the books suggested in teacher and student resources are critical in understanding the importance of salmon to Indigenous communities.  Salmon are a staple in some Indigenous peoples diet.  Acknowledging not all Indigenous peoples rely on salmon but instead other animals depending on where they live.