“Come here, child. And put that thing away!” her grandmother snapped, kneeling down next to the plant she had chosen. Anita showed little interest. Her grandmother carefully dug around the plant and exposed its roots, which fell in her hands like a milky mop. She began to talk about it, but Anita didn’t listen to her; she was thinking about the smoked salmon. The smoked salmon was the main thing she looked forward to when she visited her grandmother.Lisez l’histoire de Emily Valin
At first I wanted to write this story so I could have a chance to win money for university, but now regardless of wether I win or not I'm glad I wrote. I know I'm of aboriginal decent, but I had no idea where other then "somewhere in Merritt". I spoke with a first nations councillor who said I'm from a Nicola valley tribe, so I did some research. I found out alot of where I come from, though I would have preferred more, and I took what I learned and put it together to make this short story, which I am proud of. My passion is writing and I plan on going to university for English/First Peoples Literature
The sun peered though the evergreen leaves, making patches of light on the forest floor. The bark of the tree was chipped with age, showing signs of being picked at by bugs, squirrels, and many others. Morning dew glistened on a broad, smooth leaf that branched out from the tall stock of a plant, and this helped to catch the grandmother’s eye. “There it is.”
“There is what?” Anita followed her grandmother, looking up from her touch screen smart phone. She wore black skinny jeans and a graphic T-shirt. Her hair was dyed black with rainbow streaks. She wasn’t a huge fan of being out in the bush, or being stuck with her grandmother for spring break.
“Come here, child. And put that thing away!” her grandmother snapped, kneeling down next to the plant she had chosen. Anita showed little interest. Her grandmother carefully dug around the plant and exposed its roots, which fell in her hands like a milky mop. She began to talk about it, but Anita didn’t listen to her; she was thinking about the smoked salmon. The smoked salmon was the main thing she looked forward to when she visited her grandmother.
Before they left, her grandmother cleaned and sliced two large salmon and brought them into the smoke house in her backyard. It was made of split cedar, which was treated to have a high resistance to flame and heat. Inside was a fire pit with maple wood chips and the salmon was placed on metal racks over the fire. She had soaked the salmon in a mixture of water, teriyaki sauce, and other spices. Anita loved smoke salmon.
“Anita, did you hear me?” Her grandmother was looking at her. Anita shoved her phone into her pocket. “Sorry, what?”
Her grandmother sighed. “Just take this and put it by that cedar.”
“To thank Mother Earth for giving us these roots.”
Anita sighed and took the small white sack from her grandmother. She’s seen her grandmother make these; they held tobacco. She placed it at the trunk of the cedar and they walked back to the old Malibu Shelby.
When they got home, Anita went into her room and texted on her phone. Her grandmother invited a woman over, and they exchanged goods, speaking in Chinook. Her grandmother gave the woman one of the salmon and the plant roots she had dug up. They spoke for a while before the woman left, leaving behind a large bucket full of small silvery fish. Her grandmother called Anita downstairs. They walked outside to the backyard where her grandmother began to prepare a smoke pit. She filled a large pot with water and placed it over the fire.
“What are you doing, grandma?”
“Yeah, but for what?”
“I’m going to teach you to make- put that phone away!”
Anita thumbled with her phone and shoved it into her pocket. Her grandmother sighed. “You know, before the European settlers arrived, we didn’t have those cellular phones to communicate. We spoke face to face and the lakes carried our voices across.”
“What are you going to teach me?” Anita said, ignoring the history lesson.
“I’m going to teach you to make eulachon grease. Eulachon has many names. Very tasty. Very good for your health, too.”
The water began to boil. Her grandmother brought the bucket with fish. She plopped each one into the water, then looked to her granddaughter. “Do you know what they are?”
“Yes. They are eulachon. They have a very high oil content. I traded a Haisla woman some smoked salmon and oxasuli for her to teach me how to make it. The Haisla people call it oolichan. Now I’m going to teach you, and I want you to pass it down to your children one day.”
“Because it’s very important to our culture. One teaspoon a day will keep you in top physical condition.”
Anita looked down at the fish in the pot. They were small, and when her grandmother had been putting them in, they looked very slimy. “I would have preferred smoke salmon…”
“Hush, girl. You must respect your elders, listen to them. We are trying to teach you.”
“There is only one of you, grandma.”
Her grandmother sighed and turned to watch the eulachon, stirring with a wooden spoon. A few had started to slightly float off the bottom. “Grandma, what’s oxasuli?”
“It’s that tall plant we dug up the roots from. Important to our culture, as well. Makes very strong medicine, but you have to be very careful with it, respect it. If you use it wrong, you could die.”
When all the fish were floating, her grandmother stopped stirring and let it begin to boil again. She took a potato masher and started squishing the fish. Anita winced. Oil oozed from the flesh and formed a thin layer of a clear liquid on the surface of the water. When she was done, she covered the pot with a cast iron lid and put out most of the fire. “Have you been watching?”
“Good. Now we let it simmer. Hand me that strainer and cutting board.”
Next to Anita was an old metal pasta strainer and a wooden cutting board. She handed them to her grandmother, who uncovered the pot. She set another pot next to her, and used the cutting board to gently scrape the thin layer off the top of the water and into the second pot. She put out the rest of the fire and quickly picked up three red hot rocks, one at a time, and dropped them into the second pot, which caught fire. Anita flinched backward.
“Don’t worry, my girl. The rocks will boil the oil, and then we strain it into that jar. I’ll let you do it.”When the oil cooled, Anita hesitantly took the pot and poured it into the strainer, which was directed into a small jar with a funnel. It had taken on a more yellowish colour, and turned a bit more viscous. Her grandmother smiled. “Would you like some smoked salmon now?”
“Heh, heh, heh.”
Her grandmother took everything inside and prepared two plates of smoked salmon. She drizzled fresh eulachon grease onto the salmon and placed a plate in front of her granddaughter. The smell was salty, sweet, and sour all at the same time.
Light escaped through the translucent curtains, allowing her bedroom to be brightened by the dim light of morning. A piece of oxasuli rested on the window sill. Anita wiped a familiar tear from her eye as she woke. Ever since her grandmother died, she had been having dreams with her in them. There has been so many, she could not even recall if they are memories or if she’s being visited by her grandmother’s spirit. In each dream, she could smell that smoked salmon with eulachon grease.
Anita got out of bed and walked to the window, pushing the curtains to the side. Off in the distance, she could see the dorsal fins of Orcas in the ocean. Her grandmother had said they are powerful spirits, rulers of their domain, great communicators. They are to be respected. They teach their kin, passing down knowledge to other generations. Anita sighed. Her grandmother had tried to teach her a lot. She put a hand on the oxasuli as another tear left a trail down her cheek.