, 2022-11-30 02:00:00,
Salmon heads, fins, and tails filled baking sheets in the kitchen where Lottie Sam prepared for her tribe’s spring feast.
The sacred ceremony, held each year on the Yakama reservation in south-central Washington, honors the first salmon to return and the first harvested roots and berries of the new year.
“The only things we don’t eat are the bones and teeth, but everything else gets cleaned up,” Sam said, laughing.
His mother and grandmother taught him that salmon is a gift from the creator, a source of strength and medicine that comes first among all foods on the table. They don’t waste it.
“The skin, the brain, the head, the jaw, everything related to the salmon,” he said. “Everyone will have a chance to consume that, even if it’s the eyeball.”
Sam is a member of the Confederate tribes and bands of the Yakama Nation. They are among several tribes with a deep connection to salmon in the Columbia River Basin, a region that drains parts of the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada, south through seven US states to the largest river in the west.
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