In approximately 1987 fishing in the Deadman River had come to a halt due to need for replenishment of salmon. The fish runs use to be very plentiful and abundant here in the Deadman River where most of the fishing was done at one time. This was the place to pass down fishing techniques and knowledge to the younger generations before they would move on to fishing in the larger waters.
Kukstemc To The Salmon 2004
“Remember your brothers upstream, let some fish pass so that we may all feed our people. We thank you.” These were the words of Chief Edward Jules addressing the people attending the First Fish Ceremony hosted by Skeetchestn on June 29, 2004. The purpose of this important ceremony was to honor and thank the salmon that have fed our people for thousands of years.
First Fish medicine bundle was given into Skeetchestn’s care by Mary Narcisse of the Stetlemc Nation to hold for one year. Chief Eddy Jules accepted the bundle on behalf of Skeetchestn Band. Councilor Terry Deneault will keep the bundle in his care. The bundle contains a gift offering given by every community that the sacred bundle has visited. Skeetchestn Band Members contributed gifts representative of Skeetchestn people and our beautiful land.
Skeetchestn elder, Christine Simon donated an intricate handmade pine-needle basket containing a medicine bundle. Christine and her daughter Carol Draney carry on the Shuswap tradition of basket making with great skill and pride. Nearly two decades ago, John Calhoun of Skeetchestn, found a large beautiful basalt scraper. Finding the scraper was a good sign to a young man just learning to hunt. John gave the arrowhead to his sister Shirley Calhoun who chose to bestow it as a gift offering to the First Fish medicine bundle. Christine, John and Shirley honored the salmon, our community and their relations by generously contributing these rare and beautiful gifts to the First Fish Ceremony medicine bundle & Thank you very much for your noble gesture. Approximately 200 people took part in the ceremony and enjoyed a dinner of the symbolic first salmon.
The first fish bones were returned to the river accompanied by prayer and songs. May the salmon always return to renew their circle of life and to nourish our people.
Skeetchestn Indian Band Re-Asserts Aboriginal Fishing Rights at Tunkwa Lake
Councilor Terry Deneault of the Skeetchestn Indian Band stated in a press release on May 27th the Band’s intention to resume practicing their aboriginal fishing rights at Tunkwa Lake.
The Band held a Cultural Rediscovery Ceremony at Tunkwa Lake on May 31st , 2005. The ceremony was aimed toward gaining an understanding between the band and the general public.
It is important for the public and also our youth to understand that Skeetchestn people have used the resources of the Tunkwa Lake area for centuries, and that we have every right to continue using these resources for centuries to come, Councilor Deneault stated.
Skeetchestn’s decision to again utilize Tunkwa Lake as a food fishery was met with criticism by a number of non-aboriginal sport fishermen.
These people do not understand that we fish to feed our families, not just for fun, said Terry Deneault. Skeetchestn periodically allows some part of its traditional territory to rest and refrains from using these areas until they are again sustainable. This is the case with Tunkwa.
The President of the Kamloops District Fishing Association, Don Trethway attended the event to show his support and to express his understanding of the issue. He pointed out that Tunkwa Lake is stocked with 50,000 fish every year. Skeetchestn’s harvest from the lake would number a maximum of 200 hundred fish, not nearly enough to impact the quality of sport fishing. Skeetchestn would only be harvesting fish at Tunkwa for approximately 3 weeks in the late spring.
Terry pointed out that Tunkwa Lake will be used as more of an educational cultural training site for our youth and that the numbers of fish that we use will be small. Most of the fish harvested will go to needy members of our community such as single mothers.
The ceremony was attended by CFJC Television and broadcast the next day. Elders Christine Simon, Florence Simon and Amie Bell attended the event along with Chief Eddy Jules, Councilor Archie Deneault, handful of band members and Skeetchestn Natural Resource personnel.
Terry Deneault pointed out that conservation is high on Skeetchestn’s list of priorities. Band members have been advised that what you bring in, you carry out meaning keep the site litter free. If we all work together we can make good things happen. We want to take a negative and turn it into a positive. Stated Councilor Deneault.
May 27, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:
Tunkwa Lake and the surrounding area are part of the traditional territory of the Skeetchestn Indian Band. As such, the Tunkwa Lake has been used by our people for centuries to sustain our families. Our traditional use of this area includes fishing and we therefore expect to use the waterways in and around Tunkwa Lake as a food fishery from time to time. We are mindful of the need to avoid over-fishing. So that future generations may enjoy the benefits of what the Creator has given us. We trust that the general public will understand and respect our right to feed our families through our traditional fishing activities, and we hope that others will agree to enjoy the natural beauty of Tunkwa Lake in harmony with our use of this area.
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) wood is almost always used to construct a gaff or spear. The long pole chosen must be fired first to make it strong so as it won’t break. Then metal is made into a hook shape to be attached to the end of the pole, secured in place by sinew or rope.
The wewtsk (three prong spear) is made in the same way as the gaff. The same type of wood is used and fired as well. The length of the pole for both the spear and gaff is by preference to the user. The prongs on a spear long ago were made of antler or horn. Nowadays it is constructed of metal such as a pitchfork. The spear is used in a straight down motion to hit the salmon through its back and two prongs on either side to grab the sides of the salmon. Then the spear is pulled back up and out of the water. The spear is used where the water may be swift and bubbles are forming. This pushes the salmon to the top of the water where a brief few seconds is all the person has to get the salmon on the spear. Click here to view the video (3mb). Windows Media Player is needed to view, downloadable at www.microsoft.com
The second technique is called the Meni’p (harpoon). The pole of the meni’p is longer but also made of speqpqe’llp (Saskatoon bush) wood. The pole is fired and made strong as well. The prongs have to be aged, a certain length, and size to work to the best of their ability. Sinew and pitch were used in historic times to fasten the prongs to the pole. Antler pieces are attached to the end of the prongs these are called the meni’ps Nowadays either antler or metal may be used for the meni’ps. Again the pole size is pertinent to the user. There is sinew braided and made strong to fasten the meni’ps to the prongs. Click here to view the video (6.1mb). Windows Media Player is needed to view, downloadable at www.microsoft.com
Up’ske7 (Gaff hook) is a main fishing technique used by our ancestors as well as generations today. There are many different styles of a gaff. With this technique of fishing it is said that you can pick and choose which fish you wish to catch. The gaffing technique is usually used where the water of the river is calmer. The gaff is held in the rivers edge. When a salmon comes along over the hook the user pulls the pole back out of the water and the hook should pierce the side of the fish and would be pulled out of the river attached to the hook. Click here to view the video (2.1mb). Windows Media Player is needed to view, downloadable at www.microsoft.com
Tunkwa and Leighton Lakes Traditional Fishing
When the snow leaves the high mountains and the frogs start singing it’s time for gathering the first fresh fish of the year. This fishing is done in the outflow of trout lakes during the spawn. Care is taken to only take what was needed.
Proceedings and transactions of the Royal Society of Canada for the year 1891 volume 1X Montreal Dawson Brothers, Publishers 1802
Pg. 15: The salmon, in its various species, is one of the principal sources of food supply for all the tribes living along the Fraser and Thompson and their tributaries. Dried salmon forms a considerable part of the provision made for winter, and before attempts at agriculture were begun constituted the sole winter staple. The right to occupy certain salmon-fishing places, with the annual visit to these of the more remote families and the congregation of large numbers of Indians at especially favorable places, largely influenced the life and customs of the Shuswap.
Pg. 81: It is the women’s job to clean and prepare the fish. When the men return from fishing, the women break off the fish heads and clean out the guts. Then the fish is hung up until morning, at which time the fins and backbone are removed and the scales are scraped off. The fish must be dry before the flesh is cut. Starting at the tail and of the fish, slanted slashes are made through the flesh from the center to the outer edge. These slashes are about three inches apart and slant down towards the head end of the fish. Then, a few inches from the bottom, and in the middle of the fish, small vertical slashes are made, an inch from the edge of the flesh, on either side of the outer edge. These slashes go through the skin of the fish. A finger-thick red-willow sapling is measured across the fish and then cut to that length, plus one inch. A small split is made in each end of the stick, which is placed across the skin side of the fish. Near the tail end of the fish, a three inch slash is made on either side of the flesh and a stick, which is approximately a foot and a half long, is woven through the slash. The fish is hung, by this long stick, between the poles on the drying rack.
The first thing is preparing the fishing spot and equipment being used. Many things must be done before the fishing commences. These would include things such as making the fishing tools and cleaning paths and the area being used. Ceremonial activities such as drumming and prayer songs are also done. Sometimes laying white rocks for better sight of the fish. A key factor is respect for the river, fish, and rocks.
Click here to view the Gaff hook video (2.1mb).
Click here to view the Gaffing video (1.7mb).
Click here to view the Fall River Fishing video (1mb).
Windows Media Player is needed to view, downloadable at www.microsoft.com
There are a few methods that were really well used to catch fish in the rivers. The Up’ske7 (Gaff hook) is a main fishing technique used by our ancestors as well as generations today. There are many different styles of a gaff. With this technique of fishing it is said that you can pick and choose which fish you wish to catch. The gaffing technique is usually used where the water of the river is calmer. The gaff is held in the rivers edge. When a salmon comes along over the hook the user pulls the pole back out of the water and the hook should pierce the side of the fish and would be pulled out of the river attached to the hook.