“My father was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”
Close to one hundred tribal members met at the Tulalip Gathering Hall on the evening of April 21st for the first Salmon Ceremony practice of the year. Revived nearly 50 years ago, the annual event pays homage not only to the salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community, but also to all the local fisherman who are preparing for a season out on the Salish Sea.
This year, Salmon Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 11th beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. At the height of the pandemic, the Salmon Ceremony was canceled for the very first time since it’s revival in 2020 to limit the spread of the infectious disease. And although the people were excited to see the cultural event return in 2021, many lifetime Salmon Ceremony participants still felt as though something was missing.
Every year, with the exception of the past two, tribal members engage in a cultural immersion experience, weeks ahead of Salmon Ceremony, when the community begins preparations for the event. During Salmon Ceremony practice, tribal members get an opportunity to get reacquainted with the songs, dances and stories of the annual event, so when the day comes to pay respect to the first catch of the season, everything is executed precisely in honor of the salmon.
Each week, a walkthrough of Salmon Ceremony takes place at the practice sessions, allowing the chance for the people to learn the significance behind every song and dance that is performed and offered at the ceremony. This is also the perfect time for newcomers to learn about the proceedings that take place inside the longhouse and alongside the bay when the first king salmon of the year returns to local waters.
Although the turnout for the first practice was great, Teri stated that there is still plenty of room at the large Gathering Hall for more people to attend the practices, and invited the community to come out and take part in preparations of the ceremony. Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., where a meal and good company is promised to each participant. All of the practice sessions will take place at the Gathering Hall except for the last practice on June 9th, which will be held at the longhouse.
As practices continue, Tulalip News will feature a weekly mini-series, leading up to Salmon Ceremony, focused on the traditions and hard work that goes into the cultural event each year. This week, we asked a handful of participants what the Salmon Ceremony means to them personally and received a number of great responses from youth to elders.
Said Tulalip tribal member, Andrew Gobin, “It’s about taking time out to recognize the old teachings and carrying them forward. That’s what the practices are about. We talk about the old teachings here and how you conduct yourself in ceremonial spaces, what’s expected of you. The practices are just as important as the day.”