say when the fish go up the river their great-great
grandmother is at the head of the creek. And that's
why they go up to visit the great-great grandmother,
that fish. They come back to the same place."
Salmon Drying on the shores
of Lake Laberge
Of all the fish that swim the Yukon River,
salmon are by far the most valuable. First Nations
people have always relied on this important food
source, as did early prospectors and explorers.
Yukon River salmon spend several years in
the Pacific Ocean before making a long, hard journey
to return to their birthplace to spawn. At Whitehorse
Rapids, skilled First Nations fisher hauled salmon
out of the churning waters using gaffs and spears.
Every July and August, people still gather at traditional
fish camps all along the Yukon River to set nets
and run fish wheels during two major salmon runs.
Increased fishing and structures like the
Whitehorse Dam have reduced the once abundant salmon.
Today, Yukoners work with biologists and engineers
to increase stocks of chinook, the "king" of
Traditional First Nations Fishing Tools
Drawings: Hilary Stewart Indian Fishing: Early Methods on the Northwest
Respected elder, Mrs. Kitty Smith, holds one
of her carvings in 1988.