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Salmon strips drying on small poles in the smokehouse

from western hemlock or western red-cedar, which are used because of their antibacterial properties. The tree species used as fuel varies depending on the intensity of the fire needed to smoke the salmon. During summer, when less heat is needed in the smokehouse, cottonwood is used as firewood. However, smoking of oolichan fish, another important source of food for Nisga’a people, is done in winter using green alder with its higher calorific power and greater ability to generate heat. Irene had several comments that related to climate change. She talked of more than one metre of snow during March when they were smoking oolichan. She also remembered the river freezing when she was young, around 30 years ago. She explained that it had to be -20ºC for more than 2 weeks in order to get ice thick enough for people to walk on the river. Finally, she mentioned the mountain pine beetle that continues to impact the forests since cold periods have become shorter and less intense than in the past. Such changes may or may not be related to climate change. She also mentioned that the number of salmon coming back from the ocean is considerably lower than in the past. With such a wealth of information, José’s research got off to a

great start. Other individuals that he interviewed more formally provided large amounts of information, illustrating the benefits that can be gained when such research is done cooperatively. This informa-

tion is now being examined and summarised, and later this year José will return to the Nass Valley to present his findings at a community workshop to ensure that the findings can be validated. Finally, as an act of reciprocity and involvement towards the research participants, José will offer his final paper as a report to the community at the end of the study. As Deanna Nyce has pointed out, the Nisga’a are happy to help him discover what they know, but this has to be done in a way that respects their knowledge, their people and their land. For further information on this project, contact José Arias-Bustamante at José has recently won a Kloshe Tillicum Aboriginal Health Research Award for his research in the Nass Valley.

The smokehouse



Branchlines Vol 23 No. 3 - October 2012

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