However, a high proportion of adult fish caught at inshore spawning sites and in the Moray Firth were found to have been recruited from more local areas. Taken together with the observations on larval drift, these observations suggest that the stock structure of herring in the northern North Sea may in part be a consequence of the physical oceanography of the area.
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The growth in new canneries was staggering. In her book Tangled Webs of History, historian Dianne Newell reports that in the last decades of the 19 th century, salmon canneries spread from the Fraser and Skeena rivers to all corners of the British Columbia coast.
In , the year of record sockeye runs for the Fraser River, 49 cannery camp-villages were operating from New Westminster to the mouth of the river. Indigenous fishers saw new economic opportunities in the industrial fishery — opportunities that could be combined with existing seasonal rounds and that were compatible with, and enhanced, Indigenous economies and forms of social organization.
Anthropologists Charles Menzies and Caroline F. Menzies and Butler are careful to point out that such fishing sites were by no means defined by their links to the industrial fishery: not only were salmon harvested and preserved for home use, but other food items, such as other species of fish, as well as mountain goat, deer, cockles, clams, and berries were collected and prepared for winter use and for trade with other Indigenous groups.
First Nations women working at Claxton Cannery. Customary leaders served as labour recruiters for the industrial fishery, determining who went to the canneries, and even at which cannery they worked. They worked hard for long hours, and were paid based on how many cases they could fill in a day. Their labour was in such high demand that canneries often hired Indigenous men to deliver fish to the cannery in order to guarantee the labour of thousands of women and girls in the canneries.
Since highly productive Indigenous fishing technologies were banned, and many Indigenous fishers did not have the capital or collateral necessary to buy their own boats, it was difficult to gain entry into the fishery. Many Indian agents denied Indigenous fishers licenses due to pressure from cannery owners objecting the economic independence such licenses would create. Such marginalization of Indigenous fisheries from the industrial fishery may have had the unintended effect of strengthening traditional fisheries governance structures, yet reckless levels of industrial seining at the mouths of bays as well as log drives down salmon-bearing rivers destroyed freshwater salmon habitat and prevented the schooling fish from ascending the rivers.
Hydroelectric development and the diversion of water for agriculture and municipal use severely damaged salmon spawning grounds. These destructive practices decimated the winter food supply of many tribes. The wages earned in the industrial fishery were an important source of cash in an increasingly mixed subsistence-wage economy. Credit and cash advances were readily available at the cannery store, which helped to ensure that fishers and plant workers would return the next year.
Earnings from the canneries helped to pay for winter supplies, and also fed into the existing potlatching system, through which rights and responsibilities towards customary fishing grounds were recognized and affirmed.
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Goods and cash therefore entered into traditional systems of exchange, and the cannery itself became an important site of inter-tribal trade, where specialty fish, meat, and plant products were traded between women from different First Nations. Despite the fact that Indigenous peoples were gradually being displaced from the fishery by other workers, colonial officials recognized that Indigenous people were enjoying a certain amount of success in using the industrial economy to support Indigenous economic practices and traditions.
Halliday, complained about the difficulty in enforcing the law against the potlatch, and the fact that,. Recently, however, the fishing regulations have been not only more strict, but are more strictly enforced, and it will soon happen that it will require more labour to satisfy their wants which will also be an important factor in making them more industrious.
The fishing regulations to which Halliday refers were ones that restricted Indigenous fisheries to a food component only. This separation between fishing for food and fishing for trade and sale was artificial: it had no precedent in actual Indigenous societies. It also opened a space into which the state could insert its own management authority. The increasing non-Aboriginal interest in the fisheries, particularly with sport fishers, put pressure on the government to open up otherwise restricted Aboriginal fishing grounds.
In the following years, Indigenous fishing was increasingly described by Fisheries officials as a privilege granted by the government. In , new amendments stipulated that food fishing permits would be subject to the same closed seasons, area, and gear restrictions as the non-Native commercial fishery. Indigenous needs and uses were now arbitrarily categorized and highly regulated, and the colonial goal of enabling settler access to fisheries was achieved.
Indigenous peoples did not accept this state of affairs, and continued to assert that they had never willingly given up jurisdiction over their fisheries. They therefore insisted that license fees collected by Fisheries officers belonged to them. When Fisheries officials attempted to destroy the Babine salmon weirs for the third year in a row in , they were met with stiff resistance from the Babine.
Indigenous communities did not see cannery work as compensation for the loss of their fisheries, and continued to insist that they had a commercial right to fish without interference from Fisheries regulations. In years of poor salmon runs, the blame for overfishing fell particularly heavily on Native fishers.
Salmon could not pass through the debris. The immediate response of the Fisheries department was to ban all net fishing in inland waters. As a result, Aboriginal fishers bore the brunt of this conservation effort. The bands above the slide — the Thompson, Shuswap and Lillooet — all fished with nets, and this restriction was clearly directed at the upriver Native fisheries.
Soon thereafter, all Native fishing between Hope and Lytton was banned, and, for the first time, restrictions against selling fish were strictly enforced. All the while, the non-Native fishery at the mouth of the Fraser remained open. In addition, Indian reserves located at seasonal fishing spots did not ensure access to the salmon fisheries, and in many cases the inlets just outside the reserves had been leased for fishing to canneries and other non-Native fishing companies.
He raised an Aboriginal rights defence, stating that the net-length restriction was inconsistent with Aboriginal rights, which were recognized by section 35 1 of the Constitution Act of Although Sparrow was convicted at trial, the case was appealed to the Court of Appeal, and eventually to the Supreme Court of Canada in The Department of Fisheries argued that Aboriginal rights to fish had been extinguished by the detailed regulations contained in the Fisheries Act, and that the net-length restriction was necessary for conservation.
Conservation cannot be used to conserve the fish for other users. The court therefore overturned the conviction, and the case remains one of the most important court decisions for Aboriginal peoples across Canada. Despite the victory for Aboriginal rights to fish for food, the right to fish for food is the subject of intense regulation by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Restrictions on these fisheries include limits on what kind of gear can be used, the hours and days during which the gear can be deployed, and the particular species that may be targeted. Ownership of fishing grounds is through family. But then you wonder, why do people look at ownership as individual then? What happened there? They said that only saltwater fish could be sold and that it is illegal to sell anything caught in fresh water.
So they took away our economy and, not only that, they wanted to start regulating our fishing. So they imposed the fishing permits on our people. We have our own protocols and our own laws. And it said that individual could fish from such and such place to such and such place. So right away they ignored our own laws and protocols of where to fish.
It took the all-encompassing perspective of ownership of fishing grounds — our wide perspective of it — and narrowed it to an individual perspective. So that a lot of our fishers now, up in the canyon, look at their fishing spot as their own.
That is my spot. So they have to change that again. A commercial right — the right to sell fish — is still the biggest hurdle for Indigenous access to the fisheries. She was found guilty at trial, and the Appeals court and Supreme Court of Canada upheld the conviction. Indigenous peoples in British Columbia have nevertheless continued to sell salmon. Following the Sparrow decision of , the Department of Fisheries and Oceans DFO , concerned about its legal obligations, initiated a pilot sales program through which bands that sign agreements with DFO are allowed to sell some fish caught under food fishing licenses.
PART I (Continued)
If a First Nation is recognized as having fishing rights above and beyond the food fishery it will be because it has either established a constitutional right to such a fishery in court as the Heiltsuk have done with respect to the commercial herring spawn-on-kelp fishery or because it has negotiated such rights as a side agreement to a treaty. An aboriginal person who is not a member of the treaty group can no more participate in a treaty fishery without permission than a non-aboriginal person can. Surely there is something very unfair about taking property away from people because of their race and then arguing that it is racist to give it back.
In , a group of non-Native fishermen took to the water during an Aboriginal-only opening on the lower Fraser River that had been negotiated by the Musqueam, Tsawwassen and Burrard First Nations under a pilot-sales agreement. Indigenous communities used and managed the salmon fisheries as distinct political communities long before the British assertion of sovereignty.
The creation of the food fishery by the federal fisheries department, however, served to separate Indigenous communities from the wealth of their salmon resources while conserving them for the non-Native commercial fishery. When Indigenous people worked for wages in the industrial fishery, they integrated this seasonal employment into their mixed cash-subsistence economies, but this did not pay for the sale of the resources — nor did Indigenous communities ever give up ownership or management control of their salmon runs.
Confrontations on rivers and coastal fishing grounds, such as the one on the Fraser River last summer, therefore represent ongoing conflicts that have deep historical roots. Bierwert, Crisca. Brushed by Cedar, Living by the River.
- The Crying Stone.
- Hundreds Of Trout Return To Refurbished Spawning Race.
- Account Options.
Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
Related Race to the Spawning Grounds
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