Wednesday, November 18, 2009

At the time when these traps were being put to use, they were valued for the security and reliability. If the hunt for the day wasn’t so good or the birds were too quick, there was still the fish trap to check in hopes of having some sort of relief. I believe the knowledge of building these is important to pass on because it teaches so much more. To me it symbolizes that there can always be something to look forward to when things don’t go the way that was expected. Even if the net is empty, there’s always tomorrow. One can have an internalized feeling of trust in the object because the materials were carefully picked and assembled by hand. From this comes a feeling of happiness when the tedious work pays off with a net full of fish for all to enjoy as well.


Grizzly bears have their own ways of catching salmon, they don't need a fish net, trap, or rock pool. All they need is their sharp teeth, instinct, and an empty stomach. To me, this is one of the coolest things in nature to witness. I find it amazing that the bears can even stand in the strong current without slipping in. The salmon run has to be the greatest, tastiest treat for the grizzly bears!

Brewarrina Fish Traps

In the video, a significant Aboriginal elder tells a story about the indigenous stone fish traps. The narrator, known as Aunty June Baker, explains that there was a long drought. During the drought a man and his two boys went out and stacked rocks and hard sand in the riverbed into the shape of a large fish net. The rain came and filled the river and the traps. The men would then walk into these pools and spear the fish. This is a very awesome find indeed!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Modern 'Saining'


I came across this video on youtube that shows the main idea of what I explained earlier as saining. In the video, they obviously have a large boat and a mechanical device pulling in the net, making the guys' job look easy. They are also catching smaller salmon, pink salmon as it says in the description. I could easily say that a pully system would make it a lot easier to pull in king salmon rather than using your bare hands. The video clearly shows how the fish are gathered from the net. With a traditional basket style fish trap it would be a lot easier not having to untangle troublesome salmon from the net.

Langdon Says....

In Steve J. Langdon's book, "The Native People of Alaska: Traditional Living in a Northern Land", he explains that at the time of Russian contact, there were an estimated 11,000 Athabaskans. These people were not just in one area and counted. The population of these people was broken down into groups and location.
The main groups consisted of the riverine, upland, and pacific subdivisions. Deghitan, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Tanana, and Tanacross are all riverine groups. The upland Athabaskans were Gwich'in, Han, Upper Tanana, and Upper Kuskokwim. Pacific settlements were Atna' and Dena'ina.
Since Athabaskan settlement was somewhat nomadic, archeologically speaking, the groups are not confined to a specific place, rather areas along rivers and the coast. This differentiation in climate and land corresponds to different sources of food and shelter.
The basket-style fish trap had to be adaptive to the environment as well. Weirs, fencing, and trap size were all different dependent on location. The same idea was used for the insidious fish trap, but there are small differences that make it effective.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Montana Creek Excavation

Loring, Jon. (1994). 49-Jun-453 Montana Creek Fish Trap Site, Juneau, Alaska: the excavation of basket-style fish traps.

Before the Montana Creek fish trap, no basket style fish trap had been recovered in an archaeological context (Loring, 1994, p. 3). A retired fish and game employee named Paul Kissner reported the trap site to the Alaska State Museum. After getting permission from the City and Borough of Juneau, the excavation would then take place. There were two wood samples excavated from the site in 1990 that were dated to approximently 700 years ago (p.4). This comes back to traditional spruce root lashings. They can obviously hold under water and silt for hundreds of years. It is simply amazing, to me, that you can build a trap with everything that nature has given to you and have it excavated still in tact.

The pictures above are actual photographs taken from the site. It clearly shows that the knots and lashings are still in tact. Once again, amazing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Fish trapping has not always been favored by everybody. Traditionally it was necessary. During the turn of the century, commercial fishing in Alaska was an extremely profitable business. There were large numbers of residents against it because of the huge consumption of salmon. And those who were for it believed it was good because it created jobs and enormous incomes.

These traps covered huge parts of rivers and basically collected all the salmon swimming back to their spawning areas. Not only did this suck for the other non-commercial fishermen, but it had a negative impact on the salmon. If the fish couldn't get back to spawn, then how many could return the next year? The efficiency of these traps are unbeatable.

Milotte, Alfred. (1904). Commercial Salmon Trap Operations.


Above the collection name it says "access this item". This will open up a new tab showing a video of commercial fishermen moving salmon from a fish trap onto a boat. This gives you an idea of the number of salmon that were caught in these traps.