Smokin’ Chum

The rain was pouring down the day that the chum salmon was delivered to the Klahoose First Nation reserve. Those who were waiting for the fish to arrive were probably thinking about the sizzling sounds that the fish would make when it was to be barbequed around the open fire. It is always exciting times when the food fish come in. To see friends and family coming together to continue on with the practices that our ancestors used to do is truly a beautiful sight to see. Alder was to be split and cedar sticks needed slicing to hold the chum in the smoke house.

You could hear laughter, music, the occasional complaint, and of course family coaxing the young ones to get out in the rain and learn the ways of our ancestors.

For some it was just another year of the chum experience under their belt, and their journey to mastering their blade continued. And for others, it was a slimy, clumsy, and cold learning experience, but a lesson that will continue on for a lifetime, and shall never be forgotten. It gives an experience that will make you respect a practice that’s been going on for centuries. And also, one cannot simply escape the smell for at least two weeks after all the fish is done. It will linger in your clothes, in and all around your house, which is perhaps a small reminder of our success.

Chum is a blessing for the Klahoose First Nation, not only does it provide food, but it also brings our community so much closer. It brings connection to thy neighbor. With only a limited amount of smoke houses around the reserve a delivery to one house is often for several people at once. One of the houses reached almost up to 150 fish to be cleaned, smoked, and either canned or vacuum-packed. With that many fish to be processed there were many families and households involved, and some were barbequed around the fire on top of that. As Tracy Girling Dimitrov says, “I think smoking Chum is a huge undertaking, but when you do it with friend’s and family it makes it a little easier.” Long days and long nights, but now all of that hard work has paid off.

A big thank you to everyone who made this possible: Chief and council; Flavian Harry for pickup and delivery; Ken Chickite, Sheldon, Gerry, Nathan, and Randy Chickite and their seine vessel the “Marinet” for getting all the chum; Kevin Peacey for delivery and zoomboom operation; and the community for being so eager to keep traditional practices alive. Live well. Eat well. It is these kind of endeavors that allow Klahoose as a nation to grow stronger. Emote.