“How do you say salt in Kwak’wala?” Kaleb Child asks the children gathered inside the Big House in Tsaxis, also known as Fort Rupert, around a tray of barbecued sockeye salmon-małik in Kwak’wala – pulled off roasting sticks just moments before.
The group gathered had barbecued the fish, the cooking method also known as dlubaxw, as part of a June 22 celebration of National Aboriginal Day in Tsaxis.
About 250 children celebrated alongside parents, community members, artists and teachers. Schools were present from District 85 as well as several band schools.
National Aboriginal Day officially took place on June 21, but the June 22 celebration provided a great way for schools to bring their students together. National Aboriginal Day is a day for Canadians to recognize and celebrate the heritage, culture and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Child, district principal of First Nations Programs for School District 85, said that the intention for the day was to fill it with all things that celebrated the rich culture.
Kwakwaka’wakw artists displayed their works and even carved simultaneously, and children enjoyed rides in a traditional canoe while others on shore explored the rich, coastal life left behind by a receding tide.
Inside the Big House six pieces of sockeye cooked on roasting sticks spread around a crackling, popping fire, including a head spread in half and propped up in the sand, showing that all parts of the fish are used.
While tending to the sockeye, Child told gathered children about the history of Aboriginal peoples in this area, before transfixing them with a story about a Salmon Princess, intended to shine light on valuable natural resources and how the Kwakwaka’wakw first came to be in touch with them.
After the salmon was finished barbecuing, adults and children lined up and ate the savoury fish off napkins while mid-day sun streamed down onto them inside the Big House.