Salmon is the life-blood of river cultures, according to Gina Ricketts.Ricketts, Native American program director at Central Oregon Community College, oversees the planning of the yearly Salmon Bake event held at COCC.
The Salmon Bake is a time to celebrate the returning of salmon to Oregon waterways. Salmon are more than just a food source, according to COCC student, Gabe Swazo. In the Native American culture, the return of the salmon also signifies the return of many spirit families.
“The spirits Native American cultures recognized as earth, wind, and fire… animals and their migration periods coincide with [the return of those spirits],” Swazo said. “The salmon are a cultural offering to the people who use them.”
Salmon Bake is also a time to encourage intercultural communication and connections in the community, according to Swazo, who will be the MC at the 2013 salmon bake.
“This event is one way to build a connection between Native American cultures and the community,” Swazo said. “We can offer a representation of the culture to the community, and re-establish the bonds we have made with those from other cultures.”
Ricketts believes that because most people cannot attend traditional events such as pow-wow’s, this event is a good way for people to become educated about the Native American traditions.“Community members outside the native community don’t go to pow-wows,” Ricketts said. “This is not a pow-wow…but, it’s an opportunity for them to see a part of a culture that they may not know anything about.”
Main events and changes to the Salmon Bake
This year will be the first time in ten years the salmon bake will be held outside on the Mazama field, according to Isaiah Spence, president of the First Nation Student Union at COCC.
“We talked about having it outside for the past two years,” Spence said, “and once I became club president, it was the final push.”
Also new this year, is the addition of more traditional Native American dishes, according to Spence.
“We have had just salmon and a few other culturally significant foods in the past,” Spence said. “This year we are going to bring in elk meat and a few stews.”
Guests will also be offered fry bread, that is baked from a recipe handed down from generations of Native Americans, according to Swazo.
This year’s Salmon Bake will feature many different dancing groups, one from Salem, as well as the Aztec dance group from COCC.
Ed Edmo, a Native American storyteller will also be speaking at the event, according to Ricketts.
“[Edmo] is pretty well known, he’s starred in a few movies and he’s an off-and-on regular on the show ‘Portlandia,’” Ricketts said. “He is doing some storytelling and he’s also doing a presentation on toy figures and how they stereotype Native Americans.”
Cooking of salmon holds cultural significance
COCC students Jackson Mitchell and Marie Kalama will be cooking the salmon, according to Ricketts.“You have to be an enrolled member of Warm Springs in order to cook the salmon,” Ricketts explained. “They will cook it the way that it has been passed down to them for many, many generations.”
The salmon will be cooked over an alderwood fire because of the significance of the alderwood, explained Ricketts. Salmon will be woven onto sticks before being slowly cooked so that it retains the flavor of the alderwood.
“The fire has to be blessed and then we start the fire,” Ricketts said.
Each year, vendors are invited to bring their native artwork, beading, and paintings to the event, according to Spence. This year, there will be 10-15 vendors, and also a representative from Pendelton Wool hosting a table.
“We will host a raffle as well,” Spence said. “One of the items being raffled will be a Pendleton blanket.”
Native American artwork on display
Bachelors of fine arts students at Oregon State University-Cascades
have a different type of thesis for their graduation project. Graduating students were asked to pick a theme and create multiple artwork pieces to showcase based on that theme.
Kaylee Morgan, OSU-Cascades student, believes that this project was a way for the graduating students to have more freedom of expression in their final project.
“In art, the viewer is always the one who ‘finishes,’” Morgan said. “[The purpose of] Fine Art is to impact the perceptions of the audience to allow them to expand their views.”
Morgan chose Native American artwork as her theme because she wanted to educate the community about the traditional culture. Morgan had been painting for ten years before starting this project and believes this project helped her to learn a different art style.
“This project helped me be open-minded about incorporating action into my art,” Morgan said.
Morgan is one of five students that have artwork on display, the other students are Richard Bassett, Stefanie Crowe, Luke McCready, Leah Sowell.
Two of Morgan’s pieces have already been sold to the COCC Multicultural Center, and all remaining artwork is available for sale. Those interested in purchasing a piece can ask receptionists at Cascades Hall or Barber Library for more information.
With information contributed by Anna Quesenberry