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The food of the Tlingit people , an indigenous group of people from Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon, is a central part of Tlingit culture, and the land is an abundant provider. A saying amongst the Tlingit is that "When the tide goes out the table is set."This refers to the richness of intertidal life found on the beaches of Southeast Alaska, most of which can be harvested for food. Another saying is that "in Lingít Aaní you have to be an idiot to starve". Since food is so easy to gather from the beaches, a person who cannot feed himself at least enough to stay alive is considered a fool, perhaps mentally incompetent or suffering from very bad luck. Though eating off the beach could provide a fairly healthy and varied diet, eating nothing but "beach food" is considered contemptible among the Tlingit, and a sign of poverty. Shamans and their families were required to abstain from all food gathered from the beach, and men might avoid eating beach food before battles or strenuous activities in the belief that it would weaken them spiritually and perhaps physically as well. Thus for both spiritual reasons as well as to add some variety to the diet, the Tlingit harvest many other resources for food besides what they easily find outside their front doors. No other food resource receives as much emphasis as salmon; however, seal and game are both close seconds.
A particular problem with the Tlingit diet is ensuring enough vitamins and minerals are available. Protein is ubiquitous. Iodine from saltwater life is easily obtained, but important dietary components such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin C are lacking in meat and fish. To ensure that such essentials are available, the Tlingit eat almost all parts of animals they harvest. Bones used for soup stock provide leached calcium, as well as fish vertebrae from boiled salmon. Vitamin A is obtained from livers. Vitamin C is found in berries and plants, such as wild celery, wild crab apples, and a wide assortment of berries. Bone marrow provides valuable iron and vitamin D. Intestines and stomachs are harvested to provide vitamin E and the B complexes.
Today, most Tlingit eat a number of packaged products as well as imported staples such as dairy products, grains, beef, pork, and chicken. In the larger towns most of the American restaurant standards are available, such as pizza, Chinese food, and delicatessen goods. Ice cream and SPAM are particularly popular. Rice (koox) has long been a staple, as have pilot crackers (gháatl), and both have specific terms in Tlingit that are adapted from now-uneaten foods (Kamchatka lily and a type of tree fungus).
The Tlingit gather razor clams, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, seaweed, limpets and other sea plants on the beach and they are normally cooked over an open fire or boiled.
The primary staple of the Tlingit diet, salmon was traditionally caught using a variety of methods. The most common was the fishing weir or trap to restrict movement upstream. These traps allowed hunters to easily spear a good amount of fish with little effort. It did, however, required extensive cooperation between the men fishing and the women on the shore doing the cleaning.
Tlingit constructed fish traps in a few ways, depending on the type of river or stream. At the mouth of a smaller stream, they drove rows of wooden stakes into the mud in the tidal zone. The stakes supported a weir of flexible branches. Outside the harvest, the weir was removed but the stakes left. Archaeological work has uncovered a number of sites where long rows of sharpened stakes were hammered into the gravel and mud.
Another trap for smaller streams was made using rocks piled to form long, low walls. These walls submerged at high tide, and the salmon swam over them. Adults and children threw rocks beyond the wall when the tide began receding, scaring the fish into staying inside the wall. Once the tide went down enough to expose the wall, men walked out on the wall to spear the schooling salmon. The remnants of these walls are still visible at the mouths of many streams; although none are in use today. Elders recall them being used in the early twentieth century.
On larger rivers, Tlingit built a weir that either spanned the entire river or merely crossed a channel known for salmon. These weirs followed the pattern above, but instead of depending on the tide to fill them, they had small gaps in the weir with platforms above them. Since salmon were restricted to passage through these small gaps they were easy targets for the spearmen who plucked them from their platforms above the gaps.
Fishwheels, though not traditional, came into use in the late nineteenth century. The mechanism was based on a floating platform tied to a tree on the bank of a river. The wheel consisted of two or four large baskets arranged around an axle. The force of the river's current rotated the baskets as with a conventional waterwheel, and salmon resting in the current were caught in the basket. The basket spilled its contents as it came over the top of the wheel, and the fish dropped into a large pen or container. Fishwheels are still used in some locations, particularly the Copper and Chilkat Rivers. They have the particular advantage of working without constant attendance, and harvesters can come by a few times a day to remove the caught fish and process them. Their disadvantage is that they are slow, and depend largely on luck to catch salmon being pushed downstream by the current; placement in well-known channels increases the recovery, but still does not compare to more active means of harvest.
Note that none of the traditional means of trapping salmon severely decreased the salmon population, and once the Tlingit harvested enough fish in a particular area they moved to other locations.This left the remaining run to spawn and guarantee future harvests. This is in contrast to commercial fish traps used in Alaska in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which devastated runs, and in some cases completely destroyed spawning populations.
With the advent of gasoline motors, winter trolling has become a common practice, and provides fresh fish in the cold months that traditionally depended on stored fish. Trolling poles are similar to those used in sport fishing, but are much heavier and stronger with correspondingly heavier tackle and longer lines. They are set in the stern and along the side gunwales of a boat, baited or strung with flashing spoons or spinners. The boat then slowly motors around areas where salmon, usually kings, are known to school during the winter, aided by ultrasonic fish-finders. Periodically the lines are checked and brought in to remove fish. The same techniques are used for halibut as well. The harvest by this method is fairly small as it depends more on luck; salmon are not guaranteed to bite at lures and bait, unlike the certainty in catching them while spawning. Because of this limited take, trolling is usually avoided during spawning season and only used to bring home fresh fish in the winter. Trolling is often a family event done on the weekends, and often includes overnights on board. Because of the relative inactivity in trolling, the poles are not always well-minded. This occasionally results in seals or sea lions snatching hooked fish still on the line and making off with them.
Salmon are roasted fresh over a fire, frozen, or dried and smoked for preservation. All species of salmon are harvested, and the Tlingit language clearly differentiates them. Certain species are considered more suited for a particular use, such as for hard smoking, canning, or baking. The most common storage methods today are vacuum-sealed freezing of raw fish, and either hard or soft smoking, the latter often followed by canning. Canning may be professionally done at local canneries or at home in mason jars. Smoking itself is done over alder wood either in small modern smoke houses near the family's dwelling or in larger ones at the harvesting sites maintained by particular families. For the former the fish are kept on ice after harvest and until they are brought home, however for the latter the processing is all performed on site.
Tlingit still practice traditional methods of harvesting and processing salmon to some extent, though often alongside more modern methods that require less effort. Salmon are cleaned as soon as they are harvested from the stream or river, and split along the back and left to hang dry on large racks for a few days. This allows the fish's slime to evaporate and makes the flesh easier to work. Some claim it is best to let the salmon soak in salt water overnight before drying, to further reduce the slime and soften the flesh. Drying racks must be watched continuously due to the threat of bears and birds poaching. Once dry, the fish are further cut apart from head to tail and belly to back, then placed in a smokehouse for some period of time. When the fish are taken down, the fillets are further split and slashed or crosshatched to allow more surface area for smoking. Once fully cured, the fish are cut into strips and are ready to eat or store. Traditionally, they were stored in bentwood boxes filled with seal oil. The oil protected the fish from mold and bacteria, and provided a secure method of long-term storage for not only fish, but most other foodstuffs as well. Though some Tlingit can identify the preparer of smoked salmon by the knife patterns in it, this skill is dying out and specific cutting patterns are dispensed with in favor of the simplest slashing or crosshatching.
During the summer harvesting season most people lived in their smokehouses, transporting the walls and floors from their winter houses to their summer locations, where the frame for the house stood. Besides living in smokehouses, other summer residences were little more than hovels built from blankets and bark set up near the smokehouse. In the years following the introduction of European trade, canvas tents with wood stoves came into fashion. Since this was merely a temporary location, and since the primary purpose of the residence was not for living but for smoking fish, the Tlingit cared little for the summer house's habitability, as noted by early European explorers, and in stark contrast to the remarkable cleanliness maintained in winter houses.
Many Tlingit are involved in the Alaskan commercial salmon fisheries. Alaskan law provides for commercial fishermen to set aside a portion of their commercial salmon catch for subsistence or personal use, and today many families no longer fish extensively but depend on a few relatives in the commercial fishery to provide the bulk of their salmon store. Despite this, subsistence fishing is still widely practiced, particularly during weekend family outings.
Herring (Clupea pallasii) and hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus) both provide important foods in the Tlingit diet. They are small fish that return in enormous schools to spawn near the mouths of freshwater rivers and streams. Herring are traditionally harvested with herring rakes, long poles with spikes that are swirled around in the schooling fish. An experienced herring raker can bring up ten or more fish with each swing, and deftly flick the fish from the rake into the bottom of the boat. Raking can be enhanced with pens, weirs, and other techniques of condensing the large schools. More modern methods usually involve small aperture nets and purse seining. Herring are usually processed like salmon, dried and smoked whole. Cleaning and removal of the viscera is optional, and if being frozen whole many do not bother due to the diminutive size of the fish. They are traditionally stored by submerging in seal oil (the "Tlingit refrigerator"), but in modern times may be canned, salted, or frozen, the latter usually in vacuum sealed bags.
Herring eggs are also harvested, and are considered a delicacy, sometimes called "Tlingit caviar". Either ribbon kelp or (preferably) hemlock branches are submerged in an area where herring are known to spawn, and are marked with a buoy. They may be unattended during spawning, or the herring may be herded into the area and penned with nets to force them to spawn on the kelp or hemlock. Once enough eggs are deposited the herring are released from the pen to spawn further, thus ensuring future harvests. The branches or kelp are removed and boiled in large cauldrons or fifty-five gallon drums on the beach, often as part of a family or community event. Children are often tasked with stirring the water with large paddles, and this provides many fond memories for adults. The cooked eggs may be salted, frozen, dried in cakes, or submerged in seal oil to preserve them for use throughout the year. Bringing herring eggs to a gathering always results in oohs and aahs as people sample them, and frequently induces an elder to relate herring stories. Some Tlingit are connoisseurs, knowing certain regions by their flavor or texture, and good harvest grounds are often jealously guarded secrets.
Hooligan are harvested by similar means as herring; however, they are valued more for their oil than for their flesh. Instead of smoking, they are usually tried for their oil by boiling and mashing in large cauldrons or drums (traditionally old canoes and hot rocks were used), the oil skimmed off the surface with spoons and then strained and stored in bentwood boxes (today in commercial containers, e.g., glass jars). Hooligan oil was a valuable trade commodity, and enriched khwáan such as the Chilkat who saw regular hooligan runs every year in their territory. Today hooligan are, when not tried for their oil, most often vacuum-sealed and frozen, kept in large freezers found outside many Tlingit households.
When cooked, both herring and hooligan are usually served whole with heads still attached. Some people eat the entire fish, others strip the meat and viscera off with their teeth and leave the skeleton; eating of the viscera is very common, in contrast with the universal disposal of salmon viscera. Methods of preparation often involve deep-frying or pan frying, although baking is also common and is more traditional. As with salmon, they may be pierced with a stick and set over a fire to roast; this is a particularly common practice during the harvest when overnighting at a remote location, or at a beach party or picnic.
Halibut, cod, bullhead, flounder, shark, salmon, etc.
Halibut were eaten frequently, as were herring and lingcod. Halibut were killed by spear or by club depending on size and weight, or caught with specialized halibut hooks.
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Unlike almost all other north Pacific coast peoples, the Tlingit do not hunt whale. Various explanations have been offered, but the most common reason given is that since a significant portion of the society relates itself with either the killer whale or other whale species via clan crest and hence as a spiritual member of the family, eating whale was tantamount to cannibalism. A more practical explanation follows from the tendency of the Tlingit to harvest and eat in moderation despite the surrounding abundance of foodstuffs. Thus whale is treated similarly to shellfish—as a second class food, only eaten when other food sources have failed, and whose consumption indicates poverty. A whale provides a large amount of food that spoils easily, and distribution of food outside the household requires elaborate and expensive potlatching. Whale hunting is also a large cooperative endeavor, and requires extensive interaction between clans for success. Such interactions can produce obligations that are difficult to repay. Thus the Tlingit avoided the whale harvest for sociopolitical and socioeconomic reasons.
The Gulf Coast Tlingit around Yakutat are the exception to the rule, hunting whale occasionally.Many Tlingit explain the Gulf Coast whale hunt as an areal influence of the Eyak and the Alutiiq Eskimos of Prince William Sound further north. However, all Tlingit eat beached whales, considering this a gift that should not be wasted. A story in the Raven Cycle relates how Raven was swallowed by a whale and then ate it from inside out, eventually killing and beaching it; this is considered to justify Tlingit harvests of beached whales. However, beached whales are fairly uncommon in Southeast Alaska since the beaches are very rocky and often nearly nonexistent, thus whale forms only a very small part of the Tlingit diet.
Game forms a sizable component of the traditional Tlingit diet, and the majority of food that is not derived from the sea. Major game animals hunted for food are Sitka deer, rabbit, mountain goat in mountainous regions, black bear and brown bear, beaver, and, on the mainland, moose.
A kipper is a whole herring, a small, oily fish, that has been split in a butterfly fashion from tail to head along the dorsal ridge, gutted, salted or pickled, and cold-smoked over smouldering wood chips.
The Tlingit are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their language is the Tlingit language, in which the name means 'People of the Tides'. The Russian name Koloshi or the related German name Koulischen may be encountered referring to the people in older historical literature, such as Grigory Shelikhov's 1796 map of Russian America. Tlingit people today belong to two federally recognized Alaska Native tribes: the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes and the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe.
Halibut is the common name for three flatfish in the genera Hippoglossus and Reinhardtius from the family of right-eye flounders and, in some regions, and less commonly, other species of large flatfish.
Smoked salmon is a preparation of salmon, typically a fillet that has been cured and hot or cold smoked.
The Alutiiq people, also called by their ancestral name Sugpiaq, as well as Pacific Eskimo or Pacific Yupik, are one of eight groups of Alaska Natives that inhabit the southern-central coast of the region.
The Chilkoot River is a river in Southeast Alaska, United States, that extends about 20 miles (32 km) from its source and covers a watershed area of 100 square miles (260 km2). The source of the river is in the Takshanuk Mountains to the west and the Freebee glacier and unnamed mountains to the east. From its source, the upper reach of the river extends approximately 16 miles (26 km) to the point where it enters Chilkoot Lake. From the downstream end of the lake, the lower reach of the river flows for about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) until it enters the Chilkoot Inlet, a branch at the northern end of the Lynn Canal.
Arripis is a genus of marine fishes from Australia and New Zealand, known as Australian salmon, kahawai and Australian herring. They are the only members of the family Arripidae. Despite the common name, Australian salmon are not related to the salmon family Salmonidae of the Northern Hemisphere, just as Australian herring are not related to herring of the Northern Hemisphere, but belong to the order Perciformes of perch-like fishes. Australian salmon were named so by early European settlers after their superficial resemblance to the salmoniform fishes.
The coho salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family and one of the five Pacific salmon species. Coho salmon are also known as silver salmon or "silvers". The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name kizhuch (кижуч).
Aquarium fish feed is plant or animal material intended for consumption by pet fish kept in aquariums or ponds. Fish foods normally contain macronutrients, trace elements and vitamins necessary to keep captive fish in good health. Approximately 80% of fishkeeping hobbyists feed their fish exclusively prepared foods that most commonly are produced in flake, pellet or tablet form. Pelleted forms, some of which sink rapidly, are often used for larger fish or bottom feeding species such as loaches or catfish. Some fish foods also contain additives such as sex hormones or beta carotene to artificially enhance the color of ornamental fish.
The Chilkoot Lake, in the Tlingit Indians region of Alaska, is also spelt Chilcoot Lake. Its other local names are the Akha Lake and Tschilkut S(ee), meaning "Chilkoot Lake". It is in Haines Borough, Alaska. Chilkoot also means "big fish". The lake has a ‘Recreation Site’ at its southern end near the outlet to the Chilkoot River, which is set amidst the Sitka spruce trees. Chilkoot River flows from the lake for a short length and debouches into the Lutak Channel at the head of the Chilkoot inlet near Haines. Chilkoot village, a settlement of Chilkoot Indians existed at the outlet of the lake, which was called Tschilkut or Tananel or Chilcoot; the lake is named after this village. This village is now a camping area developed by the State Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The lake is a popular location for Kayaking.
Hippoglossus stenolepis, the Pacific halibut, is a species of righteye flounder. This very large species of flatfish is native to the North Pacific and is fished by commercial fisheries, sport fishers, and subsistence fishers.
The wildlife of Alaska is both diverse and abundant. The Alaskan Peninsula provides an important habitat for fish, mammals, reptiles, and birds. At the top of the food chain are the bears. Alaska contains about 70% of the total North American brown bear population and the majority of the grizzly bears, as well as black bears and Kodiak bears. In winter, polar bears can be found in the Kuskokwim Delta, St. Matthew Island, and at the southernmost portion of St. Lawrence Island. Other major mammals include moose and caribou, bison, wolves and wolverines, foxes, otters and beavers. Fish species are extensive, including: salmon, graylings, char, rainbow and lake trout, northern pike, halibut, pollock, and burbot. The bird population consists of hundreds of species, including: bald eagles, owls, falcons, ravens, ducks, geese, swans, and the passerines. Sea lions, seals, sea otters, and migratory whales are often found close to shore and in offshore waters. The Alaskan waters are home to two species of turtles, the leatherback sea turtle and the green sea turtle. Alaska has two species of frogs, the Columbia spotted frog and wood frog, plus two introduced species, the Pacific tree frog and the red-legged frog. The only species of toad in Alaska is the western toad. There are over 3,000 recorded species of marine macroinvertebrates inhabiting the marine waters, the most common being the various species of shrimp, crab, lobster, and sponge.
Carousel feeding is a cooperative hunting method used by Norwegian orcas to capture wintering Norwegian spring-spawning herring. The term carousel feeding was first used to describe a similar hunting behaviour in bottlenose dolphins in the Black Sea. There are two main phases of carousel feeding in orcas, the herding phase and the feeding phase. In the herding phase the orcas surround a school of herring and herd them into a tight ball. They tighten the ball by blowing bubbles, flashing their white underside and slapping their tails on the surface. They move the ball of herring toward the surface of the water before initiating the feeding phase. During the feeding phase several orcas begin to eat while the others continue herding the fish to maintain the ball. The feeding orcas whip their tails into the ball to stun and kill several herring at a time. The dead and stunned herring are then consumed and their heads and spines discarded.
Cured fish is fish which has been cured by subjecting it to fermentation, pickling, smoking, or some combination of these before it is eaten. These food preservation processes can include adding salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar, can involve smoking and flavoring the fish, and may include cooking it. The earliest form of curing fish was dehydration. Other methods, such as smoking fish or salt-curing also go back for thousands of years. The term "cure" is derived from the Latin curare, meaning to take care of. It was first recorded in reference to fish in 1743.
Historically Inuit cuisine, which is taken here to include Greenlandic cuisine, Yup'ik cuisine and Aleut cuisine, consisted of a diet of animal source foods that were fished, hunted, and gathered locally.
Greenlandic cuisine is traditionally based on meat from marine mammals, birds, and fish, and normally contains high levels of protein. Since colonization and the arrival of international trade, the cuisine has been increasingly influenced by Danish, British, American and Canadian cuisine. During the summer when the weather is milder, meals are often eaten outdoors.
Forage fish, also called prey fish or bait fish, are small pelagic fish which are preyed on by larger predators for food. Predators include other larger fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Typical ocean forage fish feed near the base of the food chain on plankton, often by filter feeding. They include particularly fishes of the order Clupeiformes, but also other small fish, including halfbeaks, silversides, smelt such as capelin and goldband fusiliers.
The aquaculture of salmonids is the farming and harvesting of salmonid fish under controlled conditions for both commercial and recreational purposes. Salmonids, along with carp and tilapia, are the three most important fish groups in aquaculture. The most commonly commercially farmed salmonid is the Atlantic salmon.
Herring are forage fish in the wild, mostly belonging to the family Clupeidae. They are an important food for humans. Herring often move in large schools around fishing banks and near the coast. The most abundant and commercially important species belong to the genus Clupea, found particularly in shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, including the Baltic Sea, as well as off the west coast of South America. Three species of Clupea are recognized; the main taxon, the Atlantic herring, accounts for over half the world's commercial capture of herrings.
Yup'ik cuisine refers to the Eskimo style traditional subsistence food and cuisine of the Yup'ik people from the western and southwestern Alaska. Also known as Cup'ik cuisine for the Chevak Cup'ik dialect speaking Eskimos of Chevak and Cup'ig cuisine for the Nunivak Cup'ig dialect speaking Eskimos of Nunivak Island. This cuisine is traditionally based on meat from fish, birds, sea and land mammals, and normally contains high levels of protein. Subsistence foods are generally considered by many to be nutritionally superior superfoods. Yup’ik diet is different from Alaskan Inupiat, Canadian Inuit, and Greenlandic diets. Fish as food are primary food for Yup'ik Eskimos. Both food and fish called neqa in Yup'ik. Food preparation techniques are fermentation and cooking, also uncooked raw. Cooking methods are baking, roasting, barbecuing, frying, smoking, boiling, and steaming. Food preservation methods are mostly drying and less often frozen. Dried fish is usually eaten with seal oil. The ulu or fan-shaped knife used for cutting up fish, meat, food, and such.