Of the many resources available to the First Nations of the Northwest Coast, the most vital was fish. The people devised ingenious ways of catching the different species of fish, creating a technology vastly different from that of today’s industrial world. With attention to clarity and detail, Hilary Stewart illustrates their hooks, lines, sinkers, lures, floats, clubs, spears, harpoons, nets, traps, rakes and gaffs, showing how these were made and used in over 450remastered drawings and 75 photographs. With material gathered from museum archives, fish camps and coastal village elders, the scope of this classic volume covers everything from how the catch was butchered, cooked, rendered and preserved to the attributes of fish designs on household and ceremonial objects—images that tell of fishing’s importance to the whole culture. The spiritual aspects of fishing are also described—prayers and ceremonies in gratitude and honour to the fish, as well as customs and taboos indicating the people’s respect for this life-giving resource.
An incredibly varied and highly refined assemblage of tools, techniques and knowledge, the culmination of thousands of years of evolutionary development, Indian Fishing is more than a bare account of the technology of fishing; it is about fish and fishing in the total lives of the Northwest Coast people. A classic, thoroughly researched and informative text, it examines fishing techniques of a people who have lived on the coast for over 9,000 years to reveal their complex and rich culture.
About the author
Hilary Stewart is an award-winning author best known for her books on Northwest Coast First Nations cultures. She has also been involved in teaching outdoor education and wilderness survival courses for many years, as well as studying the ethnobotany of the coast First Nations, and has an extensive practical experience in the use of plants. She lives on Quadra Island in British Columbia.
Hilary Stewart's book gives insights into not just the intricacies of fishing technology, but the breadth and depth of traditional marine ecological knowledge held by Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. There is so much that is important in this volume. I find it to be a bit like the ethnographies that Stewart relied on for sources. That is, every time I open the book, I discover another rich detail that I missed in my previous read
The Ormsby Review