Sea History 139 - Summer 2012

Page 38

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he First Peoples' legend goes something like adult lives in the ocean but migrate upriver to freshthis: Coyote came to the region that we now water ponds or creeks to spawn. Chinook Salmon know as the Pacific Northwest. H e saw that adults die after laying or fertilizing their eggs. These humans were in need of some help, so he eggs hatch into small "fry" that grow in protected created the mighty Columbia River. He fresh waters until of an age and size, a "smolt," where connected this river from the Pacific Ocean C H\ N oo \<~ SA Uv'\O N to an inland pond where women had been keeping (01-Ko !"'-\--\ (NCl-\-tJS \SH/>-'v'\{T5C\-l,t\) two fish. Coyote declared that these fish would be "the people's food," because he knew the river would bring more humans. As the river flowed and the fish began to swim from the pond to the ocean and back again, Coyo te taught the people how to catch and cook these animals to feed themselves. Tens of thousands of tribal people once lived beside the mouth of the lower Columbia S\ \Z-0"1 (:;> S~NS~ of River, surviving largely on salmon. These were S M'f.LL '5câ‚ŹMS TO the tribes of Chinook people, whose ancesbv\VE: MIG\?-f>-llONS tors lived for at least 9,000 years before the Russian, Spanish, and British explorers arrived in the 1700s. When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled to the area from the interior in 1805, they met the Chinook people and ate salmon. Lewis and Clark visited a vast native ~LAC\::: 6-VIV\Sj marketplace by the river that centered on the f 12-t:Si-\WATE\':. f\-1 P.-5 'E. F~t:Sl-\\fJAT~ Ml\L~ HAS Sl.-\A~~~ trade of salmon, and they watched the Chinook \.\00ÂĽ: 1ll NOSt: j\\J\) '?-ll>CX'l> \SAC\<. festival to celebrate the first catch of the season . The First Peoples often preserved the fish (oMt'IONL'( by drying it and pounding it into a powder and pressing this into a loaf, a type of pemmican. "Thus they can then travel downriver, out the mouth of the preserved," Clark wrote, "those fish may be kept sound Columbia, and into the Pacific Ocean. They live at and sweet several years." sea for several years, some traveling beyond Alaska, A few varieties of salmon still live in the Colum- until they return to complete the cycle by changing bia River today. The Chinook salmon that Lewis and their appearance, then fighting up the river, against Clark saw is by far the largest and certainly the most currents and rapids to spawn and die in the same place plentiful. It is also known as King Salmon. Like the where they were born. Lewis and Clark wrote of the other species, Chinook salmon, as the Coyote legend Chinook collecting and drying the salmon eggs, the suggests, are anadramous-meaning they spend their roe, for "much esteemed" food.


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