Last month I was a member of the judging panel for the Pacific Salmon Foundation‘s 2015 Recreational Fisheries Conservation Stamp (known as the “salmon stamp”) art competition. Since 1989 this stamp – which sportfishermen are required to buy if they want to keep salmon in BC – has supplied $7.75 million to more than 2,000 community conservation projects. As an avid fisherman and conservationist with a history in the arts myself, the stamp has become a bit of a collector’s item and I’m more than happy to pay $6.00 for it every year. It adds a layer of awesomeness knowing that it all goes back to helping make sure there’ll be salmon to catch for generations to come. Each year more than 200,000 people purchase it, making it the backbone of salmon conservation in this province.
The jury was made up of nine of us who went through multiple rounds of balloting, finally landing on April White—SGaana Jaad’s painting, ‘Salmon Tale’. A wonderful piece of artwork to look at (below), the story that she told the jury after she won took it way over the top. Born on Haida Gwaii, White is of the Yahgu’jaanaas Raven Clan and is the first artist of aboriginal descent to win the competition. She honours and draws inspiration from her heritage as she interprets the natural and mythological world in her art, and the story about her winning artwork (the “tale”!) is below.
Artist’s Description, by April White—SGaana Jaad:
The young daughter of a powerful chief awoke from a dream crying inconsolably for what she had seen: a great, shining, leaping fish. The chief sought counsel from the wisest Shaman, who said “We have many fish in our Inlet, but none like that. Raven, who lives among the Cedars might know.”
“What she asks for is Chíin~Salmon. In this moon, they swim at the mouth of a mighty river, far away. I will bring one to your village.” said Raven as he flew swiftly away. Diving the instant his keen eyes saw many Salmon, he caught, by chance, the son of the Salmon Chief and swiftly returned. The Salmon rapidly pursued, but soon fell behind.
Raven placed the great gleaming fish before the beaming daughter of the chief. Then he advised the Shaman, “Many Salmon will try to rescue this young Salmon. You must weave a huge net to catch all the fish.” Which they did, but out of respect many were spared, and these swam off to continue their futile search of the forest streams. Grieving, they spawned in the shallows beneath the sheltering arms of Ts’úu~Cedar Tree.
Year after year the next generation continues the search and the people are thankful for their return. This is how Raven came to bring Salmon to Human Beings. They continued to catch only what they needed to feed the village, and the Salmon are honoured by the care with which they are prepared—allowing the complete fish skeleton to be placed back in the water with the belief that their Spirit would rise again and regenerate, ensuring this cycle of life for future generations.