The sockeye is a beautiful salmon, with their green backs, silver sides and plump, bright red meat. In the weeks before the run, the men begin to get their nets ready, their buoys ready and their ropes ready.They would fish out by Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Stewart Island and many others.These were the salmon grounds.
When the sockeye were caught, they were taken ashore to the camps which were set up in the bays. The fish would be cut at the back and opened out. There were small cedar sticks that would spread the fish to hold them open.Then they were hung in the sun to dry or sometimes just smoked, and sometimes a combination. This is how the people cured salmon to store for the winter.
Fishing wasn't the only thing that was taking place. The women and children were busy all through the summer, picking an abundance of berries and other fruits. They would also be gathering bulrushes to make mats. The bulrushes were seven to eight feet tall and were made into ten foot long mats. They would be used like a tent, creating a temporary shelter. They were used for sleeping and sitting on and often lined the houses which made them warm and helped to insulate. The bottoms of canoes were also lined with the mats for kneeling on.
At this time of year, the women and children would pull long strips of cedar off the trees for making baskets and rope. Willow bark was used for the finest twine for nets and fishing line. Cedar roots were also pulled from the swamplands where the soil made it easy to pull. Roots as long as twenty to thirty feet were then coiled and stored away for future baskets and hats and other necessities.
The name for the whole summer was CENQALES - the time of heat. It was the season of plenty and the people had a wonderful, beautiful life.
From 'the book 'The Saanich Years'
In the book, The Saanich Year, Earle Claxton, Sr. and John Elliott tell the story of SḴÁU ȽTE, the 13 moons, and how they illustrate traditional First Nations respect for the land and the interconnectedness of all living things.
To find a copy of The Saanich Year, contact the WSANEC Leadership Council, https://wsanec.com/, or the WSANEC school board, https://wsanecschoolboard.ca/. The VNFC Bruce Parisian Library in Victoria also holds a copy available for borrowing.