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Muckleshoot salmon

October 1st, 2003 · 1 Comment

I hadn’t read this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week, but I did see the Safeway ad today so I headed to the store to buy salmon on sale. What a price, at $1.88/pound for local, wild caught salmon! And the brand is Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. I hadn’t heard of it before. Little did I know that today, October 1, is the first day Muckleshoot Indian Tribe Salmon is being sold at Safeway stores across the state. The tribe claims it is the only tribe marketing its own brand of fresh wild salmon through a major retailer. Not only that but the fishermen are being paid twice the market rate, and using higher quality control techniques. I can’t wait to taste it!

Now it’s one thing to feel good about buying something at bargain price and saving money. And it’s something else to feel that what I bought was a good choice, a wise choice, because it is a just and fair purchase. That it was the right product to buy for the social consequences. That it was a responsible purchase. With this Muckleshoot salmon sale, I feel both at once: glad for the money I saved, but even happier that I am able to buy it from the tribe. I only wish I didn’t have to pay Safeway for it, that I could pay the fishermen myself!

Recently I’ve begun to learn more about the sorrows of the Native people, especially those who lived in the Northwest. Learning more about Bainbridge Island’s history has been particularly powerful and poignant: the chief after whom the city of Seattle was named used to spend his summers here, as part of the Suquamish tribe. With the help of some materials from the library, the girls and I have visited various parks and local historic places on the island. I’ve shown them an old Suquamish campsite, layers of crushed clamshells visible deep in the eroded hillside along the beach, broken bits of white buried in the dirt. And I tried to explain to them that the First Nations people used to live here. I told them how the Suquamish once spent their summers camping on the coasts of this island, gathering shellfish and berries, weaving and carving cedar, enjoying the blessings of this place.

My girls asked me, “When are the First Nations people coming back?”
From time to time throughout this past summer, whenever we visited the park again, they’d ask me when the Native people were returning, as if the girls expected to see the tribe camping on the beach sometime soon.
My heart heavy, I told them that they weren’t coming back.
“It’s a sad story,” I said. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

I feel, at least in some sense, responsible for what has happened to the Native Americans: my ancestors were the ones who betrayed and destroyed them. By ancestors I mean my ancestors through my ethnicity, my nationality, my culture and I think maybe even some relatives of mine on my family tree (it has been traced back on one branch back two centuries, to pioneers/settlers on this continent). I am only beginning to understand the sorrow and injustice the First Nations people have experienced. Being married to Ted has opened my eyes more to injustice. But I can only imagine what Native peoples must feel. And I think that the betrayal and lies they experienced, the broken promises and destruction, have become, sadly, a mark of American culture, pain going down into even our families, affecting our children.

Let me preface this paragraph by saying that I do not know a lot about Tribal industries. I have heard about the Muckleshoots, I think, mostly because they have a casino. When I see Native peoples build casinos, I feel sad for I wish they had a better way than gambling to earn money. Yet I feel some strange sense of justice in it, if they can use the lure of greed to get back a little of the wealth that greed stole from them in the first place. Another big industry out here for tribes is fireworks. When I drive off of the island, across the bridge and into the strip of land where the government stuck the Suquamish, I can count, in summer season, probably at least five or so firework stands by the side of the road. I wish that the Tribes as entities could make money in other, more dignified and noble ways. I wish they had tribal industries that spoke of their past and future, that gave them an identity and pride.

So I feel right and just buying salmon from Native fishermen. One of the few things they have left, one of the few things that the government has granted and protected at least in some way, are the fishing rights in these waters here. I am happy to buy salmon from them.
It is their trade, their fish, their heritage and history.

To quote from the P-I article:

“Fishing is a part of our life and culture,” said one of the tribe members in the article…..

“We’re just simply perfecting something we’ve done since the beginning of time.”

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 enoch // Oct 3, 2003 at 10:59 pm

    i love wild salmon as well, but our grocers never carry it for less than $10/lb. even when i go directly to the docks in half moon bay’s princeton harbor, it’s at least $6/lb.

    costco always has farmed salmon, but the flavor is altogether different and the texture is so much less firm and silky. but for $3/lb you can’t complain too much.