THE VALUE OF TRADITION
A group of boys from the Yurok tribe got a lesson in how to prepare a traditional tribal salmon dinner while they were staying at Kamp Klamath for the weekend. (Yurok is pronounced "YOOR-ock." That means "downriver" in the Karok
language.) We were lucky to be invited to see what they were doing and spread the word about the work they are doing with at risk kids.
Sammy explains to the boys about the tradition of the tribal famiiles for making the meal and how they are going to do it.
They outline an area and then lift off the top sod.
The pit is about 10-12 feet long and about 4 feet wide.
They dig the pit deeper...
and build up a wall of dirt around the edges.
A total of three fires are built along the middle of the pit.
Chopping the right size wood for the fire is important. You will need plenty of it to keep the fire going uniformly for all the salmon that will be cooked.
Sammy shows us the perfect size of the wood you want to use on the fire.
Sean prepares to filet the beautiful fresh salmon.
Hand hewn redwood sticks have been carved and carefully sanded perfectly smooth to make sure there are no splinters. Sean takes particular pride in how well they have been crafted. The redwood sticks are used over and over again. Before going near the fire, however, they must be soaked in water so they won't burn from the heat.
The salmon is fileted and not one ounce of meat is lost. The back is scraped and saved to use in salmon burgers. The filet is then cut into equal size portions.
Sean takes the pointed end of the redwood stake and slides it between the salmon skin and the salmon meat.
You can fit two portions on each stake.
Once on the stakes, you hit the filets with a little salt and pepper and they are ready to be installed by the fire...
Sammy shows how to place the stakes. You don't want the salmon to touch the sand/dirt. Some families roast the skin side of the salmon first others roast the other side first. The filets must also be angled so they lean over the fire.
Even the salmon heads are roasted. You can see how much good meat is still in the skull area. The salmon eye is also considered a delicacy and a very desirable part of the celebration.
Salmon roasting. It will now take about an hour and a half for the salmon to be finished. The fire must be tended constantly and the salmon rotated to cook evenly.
While the salmon is roasting, the women of the tribe prepare a tradition acorn soup.
Acorns are gathered in the fall from the forest.
Using rocks they found near the river bed, women and children crack the acorns between two rocks
and then remove the shell.
Using a mortar and pestle, the acorn nuts are ground into flour. The flour is then leeched to remove the bitter tanic acids. The leeching process usually takes 8-10 hours.
Berta builds a fire around the cooking rocks she is going to use. She tends to them to make sure they are blazing hot. She puts the acorn flour and water into a hand made basket. She then puts the hot rocks in the basket to cook the acorn soup. She must keep the rocks moving quickly however, because she doesn't want the basket to burn or get a hole.
Finished Acorn Soup in a basket. Today, the younger students used bowls as baskets.
The salmon is finished and along with the acorn soup, there was salad, deer ribs and Elk.
I have never tasted salmon like this before. It was smoky and had more of a meat consistancy than that of a fish.
The Yurok Tribe Salmon Festival is on August 20, 2011 in Klamath, California.
The family friendly event will include: a breakfast free for veterans, 5k run, a classic car show, a parade, stick games, Indian card games, a cultural demonstration and other exciting activities. The Merv George Band will be headlining the event.
Noo-rey-o-won-ee (Beautiful girl inside and out) and
/Keet-ko (Strong/Able boy) contest winners will be announced.