Hanging Salmon

francis-hanging-salmon-fullresTitle: Hanging Salmon

Dimensions 14” x 18”

2015, Oil on canvas

The story: meet Francis

Francis is an indigenous person who lives on the First Nations reserve community of Hagwilget, in central British Colombia, Canada. The story of Hagwilget is quite inspiring in that it has been occupied for thousands of years. The village was set up beside the Bulkley River where an enormous rock was located in the center. This rock in the middle of the river provided an ideal ecosystem for the salmon and thus a reliable source of food for the community. (The village was also named Tse-kya which means “base of rock” in the Wet’suwet’en language.)

In 1959 the Department of Fisheries of Canada had the boulder removed by dynamite on the theory that it would improve the passage of the salmon. The village had protested and many of the women threw rocks at the workers to try to stop them. However, their efforts proved unsuccessful and the boulder was destroyed. Once the boulder was gone, the current of the water became much faster, which rendered it impossible to fish the salmon. As a result, this main means of sustenance for the well-established community was removed overnight. In 2008, after two decades of legal battle, the Federal Government settled with the Hagwilget Village.

Chief Dora Wilson, and the Hagwilget Village Council wanted to ensure the funds wouldn’t go to waste, but would benefit the village for a long long time. They established a trust and by only using the accumulated interest, they have rebuilt the village bit by bit. They repaired the community center, invested in the health of the citizens, and even bought a new bus for the kids to go to school. But most importantly, they buy salmon every year for the residents. Now, the people of Hagwilget have been building smoke houses on their properties. When we met Francis, he let us come to his house and let us film him preparing the salmon and hanging it for smoking. It was wonderful to witness him continue the tradition.