Annual Native American Salmon Bake

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Bend residents learned about Native
American culture at the annual traditional
Native American Salmon Bake.
“The event is important because it’s
our means for funding scholarships for the
First Nation Student Union. It also is a way
to introduce people in Bend to the Native
culture,” said Gina Ricketts, the current
Central Oregon Community College Native
American Program Coordinator
One of the most noticeable tribute to
the culture is the teepee. The teepee, introduced
last year, served its second year as a
backdrop to the event. “It took us an hour
[the night before] to set up the teepee.
Then it takes a couple of hours to get the
event going day of.” Ricketts explained.
She couldn’t take sole responsibility for
the event, stating that “Volunteers really
make this event. It couldn’t happen without
them and the Warm Springs community.”
Geraldine Jim a 76-year-old native
Warm Springs resident shared her traditional
cooking expertise with all in attendance.
She is well known for her salmon
roasting in both Oregon and Washington,
having traveled to 11 schools in Washington
for events and many more in Oregon
with up to 5,000 people in attendance.
“People even tried to fly me to China, and
I said ‘no way,’” Geraldine said.
To an outsider looking in, the salmon
bake looks like a simple process though
those who watched Geraldine, and her
family and volunteers, would know differently.
The fish, brought in from Warm
Springs Reservation, were cleaned, and
then filleted in the back of Geraldines
truck as well as a table. While others are
cleaning and cutting the fish, Geraldine
is busy at work shaping and choosing
sticks made of ironwood and dogwood
and spearing the fish in a manner that they
won’t slide off. They are then to be passed
off to her son to be placed around the fire
pit. The fire pit continuously smokes as
they cook beside the controlled fire. Depending
on the size of the fish, the cooking
time ranged between 35 minutes and
90 minutes.
The sticks, which many wouldn’t have
considered to be an important part, is very
important. Geraldine has had some of
these sticks for over 40 years, some dating
back to when she was a teenager learning
from her mother.
“I’ve been cooking by myself since I
was 18. I started back at Kah-Nee-Ta Village
long before the lodge.” Jim said. “I
grew up with my family being taught how
to cook like this.”
Along with the “old style cooking,”
many from the Warm Springs community
and a dedicated group from Banks, Oregon
shared their culture with the public.
Opening with what is closest conveyed as
the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs
national anthem, they spun, danced and
sang in colorful and intricate traditional
clothing adored with bells and eagle
feathers. The audience was gifted with
many more dances and songs performed
by kids, adults both men and women in
front of the teepee. They ended the performances
by asking the audience to join
them in a circle dance with both the tribes
from Warm Springs and Banks. From
here, audience went on to eat salmon, fry
bread and other foods that had been cooking
for the better part of the day in preparation
for hungry or intrigued attendees.
One of the people in attendance was
COCC’s own Renee’ Brazeau-Asher,
president of the Classified Association of
Central Oregon Community College Executive
Committee and part of the mathematics
department. Though she had been
on campus with her husband for a massage,
they wound up in the ranks of event
goers.
“I knew the event was going on. It’s always
been an excellent event and so much
effort goes into it. It’s very impressive,”
Brazeau-Asher said.

 

Liz McKeown | The Broadside
(Contact: emckeown@cocc.edu)

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