Bee in the Bonnet: Who Gives a Fish?

By B.H. Bates

“The fish are coming! The fish are coming!”

Or are they? Natives up and down the mighty Fraser river, in British Columbia, have been asked by the Department of Fisheries not to catch the sockeye salmon, which the Natives are dependent upon for food.

For as long as the river has flowed and the salmon have spawned, Natives have dipped into these waters to feed their families. But all that has changed, the comparatively few Natives who fish along the river are the ones who’ve been asked to let the dwindling numbers of salmon to pass them by while large commercial trawlers continue to rape the sea- so they can feed their ever-growing bank accounts!

If it wasn’t so sad, you’d think it was funny: how a Native can go to
Safeway and ‘pay’ for a salmon to feed his family, but can’t go to the river and catch his own.

Natives, for countless generations have dipped nets into the river for
sustenance, while multi-million dollar corporations dip their nets for huge profits, and it’s the minority, the statistically poorest Canadians, the most deserving, the only people who have an ancestral right to these fish, who are the ones that can be fined, have their vehicles seized and even be put in jail if they’re caught with a catch!

There’s something ‘fishy’ here if you ask me! It’s almost as if the idiots at the head waters of Fisheries are blaming, and I’ll even go as far as to say that they’re punishing, the handful of Native bands along the Fraser River, for the declining numbers of salmon.

Let’s look at this logically, something, politicians rarely do. The salmon egg, if it’s lucky, hatches in a gravel bed, up a river without a paddle.It then risks his or her life as it makes its way out to the ocean, where it survives many, many dangers for the next four years, until it grows into adulthood. Then, it has to fight its way up a mighty river to lay the next generation of eggs. After all this, they’re wiped out by the worst predator of them all – the deadly ‘Forked tongued politician.’

Now this is the part I don’t get: how can they (the department of fisheries) think that a small group of Natives ‘up river’ can make or break a salmon run? When ship loads of salmon are being harvested en masse out at sea? That’s like blaming the gynaecologist for the pregnancy!

The only explanation I can think of is: Super Grocery Stores have more rights to the salmon than the poor, hungry Natives along the Fraser River.

And these sea going fish factories have been decimating the salmon runs for decades upon decades. And while all this was going on, where was Fisheries Canada? Back east of course, protecting the now extinct Atlantic salmon runs!

The Native way of life
When the Natives ran North America there were no taxes, there were always enough animals to feed the entire tribe and salmon so plentiful, a person could almost walk across the river on the backs of the fish. Water was crystal clear, the air clean and fresh. The biggest crime committed was when someone farted in the tepee.

It’s only been in the last few years that people from around the world have started to take a closer look at the ways of the Natives: how they managedthe forests with fire; how they revered the animals for their abilities. Even the way Natives worshiped.

Only after all their technologies have failed to control the environment have modern societies taken a closer look at the old ways. Solar power from the sun can warm our homes, wind mills can light our way in the darkness.And hopefully we’ll be smart enough to understand the ways of nature and create a symbiotic relationship with the food stocks we have remaining.

Maybe all the politicians in the world should be paid on a commission basis: that way they’ll only get paid if they produce. All in favor of this plan raise a finger, any finger … I thought so.

As a Native this whole thing troubles me – if the same government in charge of Fisheries is in charge of Indian Affairs there’s a damn good chance Natives may become extinct too!

If you think about it, history might repeat itself. Wasn’t it the
political elite of yesteryear who thought that the best way to rid
themselves of those pesky ‘Injuns’ was to kill off all the Buffalo? Just
some food for thought (you may need it).