By Tawla Jaad —
Lined up at the ferry dock waiting for the Kwuna, students from the Haida classes at Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay grades 8 through 12 equipped with backpacks, k’aas st’aas.sk’aayah gumboots and xaw sk’aang.uu fishing rods wait to make the trip to K’aasda Gandlaay Copper River. The students are off to learn about aaxad net setting, fish gutting, and preparation, as well as the management of the taaxid sockeye fishery.
Taaiixou Robert Russ, Haida Guardian and Cory Williams, Field Technician accompanied the class and as they were gathered on the grassy point at K’aasda Gandlaay, Taaiixou he spoke about the history of management practices and the life cycle of taaxid.
Taaiixou showed students the aaxad net they would be setting and discussed the reasoning behind its design and how they are made. Unfortunately, there have been a number of poachers this year, and Taaiixou explained that when the Guardians find an aaxad the poachers use, the nets are pulled, stripped and remade. The refurbished aaxad are then sold or donated to community members. The rules and regulations for the fishery, as well as the punishment for breaking the rules have been developed by community members and are enforced by the Haida Guardians.
As the students sit in the xaay.ya sunshine, they learned about issues that are affecting our tang.guunaay ocean such as warming temperatures, k’aaw tl’ldala kelp not growing, the decline of the sk’aa.am starfish population, and they were asked to think what this means for the taaxid? Following that discussion everyone walked down to the river bank and watched Taaiixou and Cory set the net across the river explaining each step of the process along the way. While we waited for fish to be caught everyone headed upriver to the counting plate. When the students arrived, there were 27 fish in the counting cage. Taaiixou pulled three and described their anatomy, and how they are identified and measured for sampling and management purposes. As he dissected one salmon, he removed the odilith that is located near the taxiids brain and miniscule in size. This tiny bone stores all of the fish’s biological information. The bone is much like the rings in a tree and can give insight into it’s lifecycle. Students were huddled closely around the fish, asking questions and making faces as blood squirts out. Student Gabe Wesley volunteered to gut one of the salmon, it was his first time, and Taaiixou guided him through the process.
When all three fish were cleaned, they were washed in the river; the remains are tossed into the water and scooped up immediately by the circling Guud eagles. The students gathered firewood, and the salmon were cooked along with its eggs. The day came to a close with swinging on the tire swing, enjoying fresh fish, and laughing around the fire.
A grant from Northern Health made the student’s field trip possible. The Local Food to School program links schools to local food gatherers and farmers to bring more local food into the schools and to educate students about the benefits of eating locally and in a sustainable manner. The initiative is based around the partnership between Shelly Crack, Community Dietician and Kiku Dhanwant, Haida Gwaii Learning Circle Coordinator, as well as a team of community members, health workers, local food providers, and youth member Shaunnay Edgars.
“The goal of the [Local Food to School program] is to teach food gathering, growing, preparing and preserving” said Pantry Planner Jennifer Dysart. The grant spans one year and will actively include students in the complete process of acquiring local food from the forests, farms and beaches to their plates.
To learn more about the Local Food to School Program go to check out the Food fight… not! Article in the April edition of the Haida Laas or find the F2S Program on Facebook < https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=790807337628311&tsid=0.42151197291261555&source=typeahead >.
To see a video that outlines Local Food to School on Haida Gwaii: