Salmon are honoured and celebrated by all coastal people as the fish serve as a powerful symbol of regeneration, self-sacrifice and perseverance. The historically abundant fish are viewed as a life source for many Indigenous communities; as a result, representing regeneration and health (Dawkins). Although Salmon is not a major family crest, it can be seen featured in a great deal of Northwest Coast jewellery.
Many legends express the importance of appreciating these powerful creatures and observing traditional gestures of respect. For example, many believe that it is imperative to place all of Salmon’s bones back into rivers and seas after eating. If this ritual is not observed, Salmon will not return, or will return dismembered and deformed (Shearar).
Salmon’s power is represented in many stories. One popular tale tells about a group of people who were kidnaped by Salmon and when returned to their villages, had secret knowledge enabling them to become great shamans (Shearar). Other narratives recount shamans and chiefs voyaging undersea to secure crucial knowledge and power from Salmon people to foster survival and success for their people (Shearar).
Current Day Relations with Salmon
Although Salmon once ran in nearly every stream and river along the Northwest Coast, human encroachment in recent years has caused some species populations to drastically decline. Traditionally shortages of Salmon have been attributed to human disrespect and refusal to listen to and live by the wisdom of elders (Shearar).
Artistic Characteristic of the Salmon
Salmon can be identified in artwork by its short fins, round eyes, downturned mouth, long body, gills, scales and a moderately large, slightly bifurcated tail. Curly ears indicate the presence of a Supernatural Salmon (Shearar).
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