Kyuquot community members participate in cleaning fish. (Photo contributed)

Parcels from home: How fish delivery links Island First Nation with its dispersed members

Despite the pandemic, Kyuquot First Nation will continue its annual food fish distribution program

Every year, between May to August, Kyuquot First Nation members spread across B.C., and the US receive a doorstep delivery of fish from their traditional land on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Kyuquot will go ahead with this annual tradition of food fish distribution despite shutting its borders and not allowing anyone to travel in or out due to COVID-19.

Salmon, halibut, yellow snappers and other fish caught off Barkley Sound and Kyuquot Sound are distributed and free of cost to more than 350 members living in Kyuquot and elsewhere. Depending upon the catch, each family member gets anywhere between two to 10 fish, irrespective of age.

RELATED: Isolated B.C. First Nation seeks further seclusion in response to COVID-19

“There’s an entire process in place for this food fish distribution which stemmed as one of the benefits of the Maa-Nulth treaty,” said Dianna Dragon, a community outreach manager for Kyuquot whose family has been overseeing the logistics of the fish distribution program since it started in 2011 after the treaty came into effect.

Her brother Frank Dragon, a fisheries consultant to Kyuquot/Checleseht First Nations (KCFN), conceptualized the program and put together the distribution logistics in place. And now Dianna and her daughter, Monique Dragon Gillette, a fisheries manager for KCFN, oversee its operations.

Traditionally a fishing community, Kyuquot undertakes this yearly distribution of food fish as a “selfless service” to all the members outside settlement territories, who do not have access nor the opportunity to obtain this fish unless it is given to them, said Frank.

“It’s everybody’s food fish. Members who live in Kyuquot are lucky and they can still go out and fish but for others, it’s expensive to go buy fish from the stores,” said Dianna.

Delivery is routed based on the database of members and also includes children who are placed in foster care outside traditional territories.

In Kyuquot, when fish is brought in from the sea there’s a cultural gathering that takes place as members come together and participate in cleaning the fish.

“Throughout the summer months there is music, song and drumbeats in Kyuquot as people come to gut and package the fish,” said Frank. Most of the catch is then smoked in smokehouses or stored in freezers to preserve it.

RELATED: Pre-existing woes might deepen after COVID-19 for remote Vancouver Island schools

Systematically, the first catch is distributed among members living in Kyuquot, then it is packaged and distributed to members throughout Vancouver Island.

A truck is rented and two people from Kyuquot go door-to-door to deliver the fish in places such as Campbell River, Gold River, Port Alberni, Ladysmith and Victoria among others, said Frank. And the final leg of the delivery is to Vancouver and Seattle.

The tradition is also a good way to connect with community members who are living away from home territory, Dianna said. For members, it’s like receiving a letter from home, “they’re always excited to receive the fish from home waters.”

This year the First Nation will have to work around logistic challenges imposed by COVID-19 and might have to make some exceptions, Frank said. Due to border closure, some members from Seattle might not receive the food fish this year. But otherwise, the fish distribution will continue as it has for the past nine years.

For more news from the Island and beyond delivered directly to your email inbox, click here.

First Nationsfishing

 

Fresh catch is brought to the Kyuquot dock. (Photo contributed)

Cleaned fish is loaded into the truck for distribution. (Photo contributed)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

‘Depression-era’ unemployment figures could hit Greater Victoria

South Island Prosperity Project launches new dashboard to measure effects of COVID-19

News of softwood lumber agreement lost amid COVID crisis

Reduced wood tariffs is a good starting point for a new (long-term) softwood lumber deal

Former Comox hospital turning into Vancouver Island’s first ‘dementia village’

Island Health inks deal to transform St. Joseph’s Hospital into groundbreaking $52.6 million facility

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Three people facing mischief charges after protests at Premier John Horgan’s home

Special prosecutor was appointed to avoid real or perceived undue influence

Ferry sailings scheduled once again at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay terminal

BC Ferries announces that resumption of service June 3 includes four daily round trips

‘A bottomless well of love for people and communities’

Parksville Qualicum Beach News editor JR Rardon dies at age 61

Dump truck in Nanaimo snags power lines, snaps hydro pole, crashes

No injuries in incident Monday morning on Old Victoria Road

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

No one injured in suspicious Victoria boat fire, say investigators

Victoria police and fire personnel called to blaze on waters near Selkirk Trestle May 22

Victoria dealer sells Batmobile replica at Arizona auction

Tim Quocksister sells Batmobile replica for $165,000 US at auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Most Read