Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spawning Salmon and Haida’s in Hydaburg

Thursday, August 5

Heading south, down the west side of Prince of Wales Island, we were treated to the telltale spouting of whales, always watching for that beautiful swoosh of the tail as they glide back into the waters. It doesn’t matter how many times you see these creatures … it’s always inspiring … and I inevitably reach for my binoculars or camera.

It was a beautiful sunny day so we decided to drop anchor, put the tender in the water and take a side trip to Hydaburg, the largest Haida settlement in the U.S. The Haida tribes originated in BC, but migrated to Alaska and merged five villages into one at Hydaburg in 1911.

Walking through the village we stopped and took photos of a striking totem collection adjacent to the school, with some of the most exquisite carvings we’ve seen to date.

Further up the road we stopped at a bridge crossing the Hydaburg River where we hoped to see salmon spawning. Sure enough, looking down into the water you could see the dead fish lying at the bottom of the stream, having completed the last act of their life cycle, making it back after years in the ocean, miraculously swimming thousands of miles to return to the very fresh water stream where they were originally hatched … to breed … and then die. It’s truly an amazing act of nature.

It was a hot day by Alaska standards and native children were swimming below us in the stream, chasing the weakened salmon that were still alive, and YES, picking the salmon up in their bare arms. I suspect this behavior would appall most mothers in the U.S. But the Haida’s have always taken great pride in harvesting resources from the land and sea … so I suspect many generations of native children have played in these very waters during spawning season. Indeed, it was a treat for us to watch their rapture with the fish.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Engelenbak

My photo
Engelenbak is a custom-built 62-foot steel trawler ... designed to cruise anywhere in the world.