Traditionally Native American men in the Pacific NW did all the fishing for their tribe. Women were responsible for preparing the fish often by drying them on racks and smoking them as a way of preserving them for winter.
Natural Resource Manager for the Nisqually tribe, Georgiana Kautz, age 64, recollects the days when her mother would go to the river with her father, build a fire and face her back to the river to stay warm while her father would fish out of a canoe all night. When he returned the two of them would place the fish in gunnysacks and carry them home. Together they would prepare the fish. Georgina says that fishing was a shared responsibility and that the Nisqually tribe was never into the women’s liberation movement.
Nikole Starr, 17, from the Muckleshoot reservation
They would say that it would be bad luck for the women to go out on a boat and touch the net. That it wouldn’t be a good thing for them. That it would just bring bad luck to the tribe. That they wouldn’t catch any fish and they would have a bad season. But now its like different. For me, the reason why I do it is because my Dad he used to do it too but he’s deceased and I just think its something cool to do because he liked to do it too. And my grandpa does it too.
We’re the first ones that end up fishing the bowpickers out in the Bay. They (female ancestors) fillet them up and smoke them or prepare them to eat but I’ve never really known any of my ancestors to go out fishing. I’ve never seen a female in all my life run a boat except for me.
Right now we’re the only ones out there in the Bay fishing the bigger boats. We have to stay out on the boat all night long. I don’t find it hard. I’ve lived it my whole life. I like it.
I was fishing for kings (salmon). The traffic out there’s pretty bad, like the boats. You gotta really watch them. When its just getting to be dark then you have to worry about all the boats coming and going like all the sailboats. The ferries too. You gotta watch for everything. My nets have gotten hit a couple times. Its very upsetting because its my Dad’s boat and nets.
She (Mom) tells me to be careful and my Dad is full of advice. He’s the one who taught us all how to fish. He’s full of wisdom. He knows everything about fishing. I hear it a lot from other people. A lot of other people say “Well your Dad’s really proud of you.”