Fish Journey
as told by Mary Smith, Gitxsan Nation, Hazelton, B.C.

Before the fish leave the coastal waters the salmon know their destination. Some go to the Skeena River and some to the Bulkley River. Each family put in their nets at their own fishing place. But, what they do is they take the first fish they catch and they cut it up and share with others in the village. Then they go on with the smoking fish and when the fish is dry they put it up high in the smokehouse for the wind to blow. And when they have enough for their winter use, they ask others to come and do their own fish. It was all sharing and helping one another. When everything is done they take the fish down and make bundles of forty. The fishermen handled the fish with respect. If the fish is not handled with respect, they will not come back to the Gitxsan Rivers. I remember my mother use to say this when I was a child. ‘Guxwhl Good’y Milit’. This means ‘Charge at my heart steelhead’. I always thought it was funny that she should say this while she was in the middle of her house. My mother use to say this when she wanted fish in the Spring. Then someone would arrive at her house to give her fish. It seemed so magical. Then she would tell us a story about ‘Wiigyet the Gitxsan trickster tricking a steelhead’. So today I say ‘Guxwhl Good’y Milit’ and soon someone comes by and gives me a salmon just like my mother. In the summer my mother would do her canning. If there happened to be a baseball game up at the ball park she would put the canner with her jars of fish on the stove and fill the stove with wood and go and watch the game. When she thought it was time to put more wood into the stove she would go home. Then back she would go and finish watching the game. From this I learned you can make a situation very easy or very hard. My family’s favorite salmon meal is ‘Fish Chowder’ or ‘Hagwiljam’:


Fresh salmon cut in pieces (best if caught the same day and was still alive on the net)
8 potatoes (cubed)
4 onions (cut up)
Curry powder (to taste)

1. Put fish in a large pot
2. Sprinkle with curry powder
3. Add onions and potatoes
4. Cover with water
5. Boil until the fish and potatoes are cooked (about 1/2 hour)
6. Serve with rice

(Watch out for the bones!)

Submitted by Dr. Jane Smith, Gitxsan Nation