Fraser salmon story – myth or prophesy?*
In a time beyond memory it is told that the Indians of the Fraser River became hungry, for the salmon did not return. So the spirit of Coyote was sent to bring the salmon back. He encountered and destroyed a giant weir blocking the river downstream, and led the salmon home to each of the many different spawning tributaries of the Fraser River.
As he ascended the Fraser, the salmon followed him in great schools. He lit fires at each tributary as he progressed, beckoning the river natives to celebrate each returning stock. And, he reacquainted them with their distinctive ways to catch, prepare, and preserve each salmon run as their ancestors had done before them, so that their people and the salmon could survive and prosper.
He asked for nothing, though he implored of the river natives to protect every one of the salmon runs, and to catch, eat and trade salmon as a celebration of their existence, but to always ensure enough escaped to spawn and feed those upstream.
The endurance of ancient harvesting innovations in the Fraser River, often uniquely different between First Nations and salmon runs, are a testimony to ancient cultures and knowledge that have survived with these salmon for thousands of years. These rich cultures embody the holistic knowledge vital to the survival of tomorrow’s fishery, and the wisdom to protect these salmon for time immemorial.
Finally, it was said that in a time too far ahead to see, that the Fraser salmon runs would dwindle once more, and the Coyote would return once again to bring back the salmon. Perhaps then, the distinctive customs, innovations, and knowledge will still endure as a reminder of the places the Fraser salmon call home.
*Derived from a traditional Secwepemc story “Coyote Breaks the Dam” courtesy Secwepemc Fisheries Commission