Stó:lô Food Preservation and Preparation

Contemporary and Traditional Practices

Home Economics 10, 11, 12

First Nations Studies 12

Brian Thom

Stó:lô Curriculum Consortium

April 1996


This unit provides an introduction to some of the traditional foods of the Stó:lô people. It was written in order to share some of the traditional cultural knowledge and beliefs Stó:lô people have about food. Of course, only a fraction of this traditional knowledge can be presented in short unit such as this. Much of the specific information about preparing traditional foods is held privately by families, to be passed on through the generations. All of the information presented here was shared with the author, or other anthropologists who have been interested in the traditional life-ways of the Stó:lô people.

Food and Stó:lô Culture

The Stó:lô are the aboriginal people who live in the watershed of the lower Fraser River. In the language of the Stó:lô - Halq'eméylem - the term "Stó:lô" means "river" or "river-people". The traditional life-ways of the Stó:lô are based primarily on the river, particularly fishing. The most important fish obtained is the salmon - the staple of Stó:lô subsistence, economy and life. Although salmon is, by far, the most important food in Stó:lô society, other fish, animals, birds and plants have made up the entire diet of the Stó:lô people. This unit presents some of the traditional knowledge of Stó:lô people regarding the preparation of foods for storage and later consumption. Much of this knowledge is still used today, as it has been used in the past. There have been a great number of changes in the diet and food economy of the Stó:lô over the past century, but the staples of their diet remain largely the same.

Like many other Aboriginal societies, the Stó:lô base their living off of resources available to them in their traditional territory. In the days before wage labouring became wide-spread, everybody was involved in the food quest. Men would fish in the waters when fish were abundant, while their wives and children worked on shore processing the fish for future storage. When fishing was slow, hunting parties would travel into the hillsides and mountains for up to several weeks at a time. Women worked to gather the fruits, roots and vegetables as they ripened throughout the region. Beyond what each family could gather for themselves, the Stó:lô traded with their extended family who lived in geographically distant areas. This wide trade network gave individuals access to resources in areas further away from their own food gathering locations. This abundance of food resources centred on the Fraser River and the surrounding watersheds created a wealth that is virtually incomparable with other non-agricultural societies.

Unlike many aboriginal societies, the Stó:lô (and other groups living on the Northwest Coast of North America), own the rights to access food at specific locations. Thus although everybody had access to food, not everybody had access to abundant food production locations - such as prime salmon fishing spots in the Fraser Canyon. Access to these locations are traced through family ties. Some people have "expert" knowledge and skills in obtain food resources which has been acquired through special training and

Figure 1. Map of the traditional territory of the Stó:lô people (B. Thom, 1995).

through developing relationships with the spirit world. This knowledge, combined with the ownership of resource locations, contributed to the creation of a hierarchy of social status within Stó:lô society. High class people generally had access to these wealthy foods, while lower class people had to rely on others for it, or were just able to procure enough for themselves.

The relationship of Stó:lô people to their food resources goes beyond subsistence and ownership. The Stó:lô people have a spiritual connection to the foods and resources provided by the land. Oral tradition - stories which record the history, culture and beliefs of the Stó:lô people - tells of their ancestors who were transformed into food resources by the powerful beings who lived during that age. One of these stories was told to anthropologist Diamond Jenness by Xáxc'elten of Katzie:

Xwthápecten and his group at Port Hammond were too foolish to contribute anything for the benefit of mankind after then, but my forefather Thálhecten accomplished wonderful deeds at Pitt Lake. [Xá:ls] game him a wife, by whom he had two offspring, a son and a daughter. These children never ate any food, but, in spite of their father's admonitions, passed all their days in the water and slept at night on the shore. At last, grieved by their conduct, he called together his people and proclaimed: 'My friends, you known that my daughter spends all her days in the water. I have decided that she shall remain there for ever, for the benefit of the generations to come.' He then led her to the water's edge and said 'My daughter, you are enamoured of the water. For the benefit of the generations to come I shall now change you into a sturgeon.' Thus the sturgeon was created in Pitt Lake, the first fish that ever ruffled its waters. Because it is Thálhecten's daughter transformed, it never dies, even when it spawns, unless man kills it. Subsequently it spread to other places, but nowhere dies it possess so fine a flavour as in its original home, Pitt Lake.

Xáxc'elten of Katzie and his descendants could trace their ancestry to the sturgeon - who is related to them from this very ancient time. This kind of ancestral relationship to the fish, animals, birds and plants in nature that the Stó:lô have is profoundly different from how many non-Aboriginals think about food. Because of these special relationships, Stó:lô people generally feel a great degree of respect and consideration towards the natural world. This is only one of many important spiritual connections that Stó:lô people have to their traditional foods and the natural world.

Stó:lô people have their own "cosmology" or way of understanding about the origins of fish, animals and plants, and reason for how they came to be in the natural world. These understandings provide explanations for why the natural world is the way it is and set the parameters for proper behaviour. The following story told by William Sepass from Skowkale in 1934 or 1935 to anthropologist Diamond Jenness is an example of that. It is often told in the Sardis area and explains why the sockeye salmon are found in certain areas, where the oolachan fish originated, and provides teachings about how men should behave to their wives. Stories like these continue to be told in Stó:lô communities today.

Figure 2. "Sturgeon Spearing on the Fraser River" (John Lord, 1866).

Once the only salmon that came up the Fraser River was the steelhead. Beaver and some companions made a weir in the Chilliwack River to catch them. When the others had set their bag nets there was no room for Beaver's, so he dug a trench at one end. They caught many salmon and ate them on the spot, taking none home to their wives.

The women sent a boy down to the weir to see what their husbands were doing. He pretended to be chasing butterflies, but unseen, he tied two bunches of salmon eggs round his legs like short leggings and went home. When the women asked him what the men were doing he said "They have caught a lot of salmon and are eating them. See, I have brought you some of the eggs that were hung up to dry." Then the women were very angry. They pounded up cedar-bark and made from it belts, and head-bands for themselves. Then they lashed together two canoes, dressed themselves up, put quantities of down on their heads, and with two women paddling, went off to find their husbands.

The wind blew the down from their heads towards the men, who sent out two of their number - two Woodpeckers of different species - to fly up the river and see who was coming. When they reported back, the men debated what they should do. Their leader said "We had better go away to the home of the Salmon and steal their babies." They embarked in a canoe, Beaver, Mouse, the two Woodpeckers, and two yuwilmat [Indian doctors] who know how to make fine weather, and they paddled far away to where the sky alternately dips down to earth and rises again, causing the tides. The yuwilmat prayed to the sky to move slowly so that they would have time to pass under it without being caught. They passed under, and approached some houses, the home of the Salmon. As they drew near Beaver jumped overboard, after arranging with the two Woodpeckers to fly after him when he had drawn the attention of the Salmon. He swam to shore, and lay at the edge of the waves, seemingly dead.

The Salmon people came out of their houses and called to one another "Have you ever seen a creature like this before?" None of them recognized him. At last they said "Let us call Coho." Coho walked down to the beach and examined Beaver. "Oh yes," he said, "I know him. It is Beaver. He dug a trench up on the Chilliwack River in which to set his net. Bring me a knife and I will cut him open to see what is inside him." Some one went for a knife, while Beaver lay praying that the Woodpeckers would arrive in time. Just as Coho received the knife the woodpeckers landed on the beach behind the people, who turned to look at them. "What beautiful creatures," they exclaimed. "Let us catch them." They all tried to catch them, but the Woodpeckers eluded them. While their attention was thus distracted, Beaver and Mouse entered their houses, and while Beaver searched for their richest baby, Mouse ate their bow-strings, the lashing of their weapons, and bored holes in their canoes. Beaver found the baby of Sockeye, the prince of the Salmon, and, tucking it under his arm, fled to the canoe.

Mouse and the Woodpeckers joined him and they fled away to the Fraser River, the Salmon being unable to overtake them because their canoes leaked too badly. They put the head-pad of the baby in the Chilliwack River; that is why sockeye are so plentiful there, and so good to eat. Farther up towards Yale they placed its diaper; sockeye are plentiful there also, but are not so good to eat. The baby itself they set at the bottom of a deep hole in the River near Yale. You can still see it there at low water - a rock that exactly resembles a human being and seems to have long hair on its head.

Meanwhile the Salmon discussed what they should do. Sockeye said "We had better follow them." Humpback announced that he would follow them on the morrow, which meant the next year. So Sockeye and the other salmon went up the Fraser River, and the Humpback followed them a year later.

The women then debated what they would do. They decided to go down to the salt water, but before leaving they threw an old couple, a man and a woman, into two creeks that unite at Vedder Crossing. You can see them there today - two rocks, one in one creek, one in the other. Children used to be warned to keep away from them, for if flies gathered round these rocks they would become sick. When the women reached the salt water they leaped and changed into oolachan. That is why the Chilliwack Indians would not eat oolachan.

Today, many people continue to be involved with the food quest, but have to balance it with work, and school, etc. These stories continue to be told about the spiritual relationships people have with the natural world. Those who are involved with getting traditional foods, such as through the aboriginal fishery, acknowledge their ancestral rights and privileges with respect to these resources.

Figure 3. Smoked Oolachan preserved on Hazelwood stick (Stewart Indian Fishing p.139).

Traditional Stó:lô Food


The traditional food staple of Stó:lô people is salmon, which is caught along the Fraser River and its tributaries. In the past, fish weirs and traps caught salmon in some abundance. Those salmon which were desirable were taken and processed, while those which could not be eaten or traded were set free to spawn. Nets were also set in the main channel of the lower Fraser to take fish as they swam up the river. In the upper reaches of Stó:lô territory, the Fraser Canyon provides one of the most bountiful places for catching spawning salmon, as they make their way towards their spawning ground in the spring and fall. Salmon are caught in set nets and dip nets, operated off of family-owned fishing stations. On the shore, the fish are processed for wind-drying on a rack or, as is more common today, put in ice-filled totes to be canned, smoked or frozen fresh at home.

Many other fish, such as sturgeon, eulachon and trout are also important parts of the Stó:lô traditional diet. These fish are caught in different places throughout the territory, using a variety of technologies developed specifically for the various fish being, and where they are sought.

Animals and Birds

Although fishing has been the most important subsistence activity for Stó:lô people, traditionally, the hunting of animals contributed significantly to their diet. Hunting continues to be done today but to a far lesser extent than fishing. This in part, is due to the relative lack of game available in Stó:lô traditional territory. Urban development and forestry in the lower Fraser River valley has been more intense than anywhere else in the province. Most Stó:lô hunters now travel outside their traditional territory to hunt with friends and family from neighbouring First Nations.

Figure 4. Illustration of a deadfall trap (Coqualeetza Ed. & Training Centre

Wisdom of the Elders p. 109a).

The main animals that have been hunted for their meat include deer, elk, black bear, and mountain goat. Hunting parties travelled into the mountains for periods of several weeks to kill game. They dried and processed the meat in camp, before returning back to the village. These parties were often led by "expert" hunters called tewit, who's connection with the spiritual world, and personally developed skills and abilities made them highly effective. One tewit or expert hunter spent all his time hunting in the mountains above Hope for his people. Elders Tillie and Alan Guiterez recalled the gifts of food this hunter made to his people:

TG: That man up there. That's Y:a'la.

AG: That's one of our last great hunters. And he didn't hunt for himself, he hunted for the people. He was the last hunter. Y:a'la. He was a guide for the white man whenever they wanted to go up the mountain.

TG: He used to hunt for everybody and anybody. He had tents all along the way. He had camps here and there. Gets down to Chilliwack and then he comes down and says "Come meet me up there."

AG: At a certain camp. Well they had all Indian names for the camps, and we don't know them. That's the last of the great hunters. The last of the great hunters throughout here. And he hunted for the people, not for himself. But he used what he could.

TG: Yes. He went hunting and if they wanted meat they would have to climb for it.

AG: And he would dress it and put it in a certain camp so they didn't have to look for it. They know where to go. They would get it themselves. They would go up and get it. It was theirs.

TG: He hunted for it, you know, and left it up there. If anybody wanted it they had to climb up there.

Specially trained hunting dogs were often used to chase the deer, elk or bear into the hunter's range, where they would be shot with bow and arrow or trapped by a net or deadfall pit. Mountain-goat hunting required special hunting skills, for they lived in steep, mountainous areas. One of the powers that the hunter has over the deer, was the ability to make the deer stop dead in its tracks by shouting. At that moment when the deer turns to look at what made the shouting sound, the hunter could let fly an arrow and kill the animal. After each animal is killed, the hunter often speaks to the animal's spirit, thanking it for the food and hide.

Birds were most often caught on or near the water. Ducks and geese were favourite fowl and often caught at night with nets strung up on poles. The hunters would paddle out into the lake or river and light a fire on planks laid across both canoes. The birds, attracted by the fire, would then fly into the net. Some birds were also shot using a bow and arrow. More recently, hunters have used guns to kill birds at a farther range, with greater accuracy.

During the hard economic times of the 1930s and 1940s, ducks were a very important staple, particularly at feasts. Frank Malloway of Yakweakwioose recalled a time:

When you'd go to Musqueam [for a gathering] all you'd have is one bowl of duck soup and bread. You'd even all eat out of the same bowl. Sometimes the duck would be barbecued before it was made into soup so that some of the grease and bad taste was taken out.

Birds, like other game, are now hunted much less, in large part because of urban development in the lower Fraser River watershed.


There are many different plant foods which have been important to Stó:lô people. Traditionally, Stó:lô women collected and prepared roots, berries, shoots, nuts and moss. From a young age, girls were taught by their mothers about where to find the various plants, and which were good to eat. This was a significant part of a girl's education, and the knowledge of these plants was often very detailed.

Some particular locations, such as "wild potato" patches, were owned by a particular family. They were controlled by the men of the family, and worked by the women. Anyone who was not a relative, was required to ask permission to collect plants at the site. Other sites, such as the great berry-picking areas in the mountains surrounding the Coquihalla River, were not owned, but used collectively by many families. Sometimes the knowledge of where a certain rare plant could be found was held privately by the women of a particular family.

Figure 5. "Wild Potatoes" (N. Turner Indian Food Plants of B.C.).

The harvesting of plant foods varies according to when they rippen. Shoots of the thimbleberry and salmonberry are ready in early spring and can be eaten fresh. Most berries rippen in late summer, around the same time that salmon are spawning. Others, such as the cranberry which grows in bogs and marshes in the Matsqui Prairie and lower Pitt River areas, become ripe in September The roots of ferns and the different species of wild potato are ready to be dug up in the fall. All of these foods are eaten fresh and as preserves.

Plant resources also have many medicinal properties. For example, stinging nettle tea continues to be commonly used for colds and aches. Much of the detailed knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants is again, held privately by Stó:lô families.

Community Life - Fishing, Hunting and Gathering

Many months of the year, particularly in the spring, summer, and fall, were spent fishing, hunting and gathering. Villages were often located at or near specific resource locations, such as fishing sites or important berry-patches, allowing for easy access to these resources.

To obtain distantly located resources, families would move from their winter village to temporary summer camps for several weeks or months, where they would fish, hunt and gather foods to be preserved for winter consumption. These trips took them to their family fishing spots at different places in the Fraser River, into the mountains where abundant game and vegetables could be found and, possibly most importantly, to their extended families communities - who had access to resources which were not normally available to the individuals themselves. Surplus food was either exchanged between extended family members or communal fishing, hunting and gathering took place where the products where then shared. Thus, knowing who your family was in different parts of the region was very important for obtaining all food needed. These family ties often extended out from the Fraser River and beyond to southeast Vancouver Island, north to the Thompson and Lilloeet rivers, and south to Puget Sound.

Every person in Stó:lô communities participated to some degree in fishing, hunting, and gathering activities, regardless of their social status, gender or age. Individual people had specific roles and abilities which guided their activities. Both men and women were involved in fishing, the women standing on the shore processing the fish to smoke or dry as the men caught them with their nets, traps and weirs. Without this coordination of labour in fishing, the great amount of salmon which appear in the Fraser for a short period of time could not be effectively utilized. Men were considered the hunters while women were the ones who collected the plant foods. Men also participated in gathering at times when the women needed help, or intensive gathering was taking place. Women accompanied the men on many hunting journeys, collecting local foods and preparing meals while the hunters were in the bush, and cutting up and curing the meat and hide of the animals caught. Young boys were often asked to help in deer drives, chasing the animals into the traps, and both girls and boys helped their mothers and aunts gather plant foods. Elderly people often trained the younger people in the specific knowledge and skills needed to become effective hunters, fishers and gatherers. In doing so, they also contributed significantly to the food supplies of the communities.

Preparation and Preservation of some Traditional Stó:lô Foods

Stó:lô people have developed particular ways of preparing and preserving these foods. These storage indigenous storage technologies are important for bringing families through the winter months. In the early 1980's Sonny McHalsie of Ohamil calculated his families annual consumption of preserved salmon. At that time his family consisted of 9 people who ate approximately 435 pounds of preserved salmon per person per year. Of this, there were about 360 quarts of canned salmon, 250 wind-dried salmon and 200 frozen salmon. In addition to the preserved fish, the family ate fresh salmon all summer long. Some of the wind-dried salmon were traded for smoked salmon with people who fished on the Harrison River. These figures illustrate clearly the importance of traditional methods of preserving food for consumption.

There are number of different ways Stó:lô people prepare and preserve food for storage and eating. Wind-dried (slhíts'es) and smoked salmon (sq'éylo) remain the most popular traditional preserved fish. The preparation of fermented salmon roe (kw':la) is a smelly, but highly nutritious dish. Smoked deer meat (mówech) prepared at hunting camps made it possible to bring much more game home than if the deer were brought back to the village whole. Dried berry cakes allowed fruit to be eaten all winter long. Bannock or fried bread (sch'ákwx seplí:l) has more recently become a traditional First Nations food, with interesting roots in history. it provides an overview of some of the traditional methods and techniques.

Wind-dried salmon (slhíts'es)

Dry racks

Wind-drying has been the main means of preserving fish caught in the Fraser Canyon for generations. Large wooden frame racks are set out on the wind-swept rocks above the river, where fish are hung to dry. They are constructed with a roof, protecting fish from direct sunlight and rain to avoid spoilage.

Figure 6. Dry Rack on the Fraser Canyon (H. Stewart Indian Fishing p. 135).

Cutting and Gutting the Salmon

As men bring in fish from their nets, women cut the fish in a particular way making them suitable for drying. Freshly caught salmon have their heads cut off, and they are then hung upside down for 10 minutes so all of the blood runs out. If the blood is not drained the fish will attract flies and spoil.

The fish is first cut down the back (not the belly), along each side of the back bone and ribs. These bones are removed and kept for cooking later. Fish guts are removed through the rear of the fish, leaving most of the belly skin intact. It is laid open and the flesh (not the skin) is scored in 1 cm wide strips to allow for effective drying. Both the backbone and the scored fish body are then hung up to dry on the rack. To hold the fish open while hanging, a small stick is put through the sides of the fish.

If caught late in the season, particularly with the spring salmon, the flesh is cut as before, but then sliced in half, making two thin fillets, which makes it dry more.

Figure 7. Cutting the Fish (H. Stewart Indian Fishing p. 138).

Drying the fish

The best time to dry the fish is in the morning when the dry interior breeze skims the fish over. The wet evening breeze is too moist and may spoil the fish. It takes a few days to fully dry fish. If there is any chance of rain, the fish must be taken down, as moisture will make them go mouldy.

Salmon heads

Like the backbone, salmon heads are also dried on the rack. The heads are opened and cleaned out and then set out to dry. These heads get a very strong taste when they are dried, they make and excellent soup. Today, people often make a dried fish head soup with potatoes, onions, carrots, and dried fish.

Figure 8. Salmon drying on a dry rack in the Fraser Canyon (H. Stewart Indian Fishing p. 136).

Dried Salmon Roe

Salmon roe (fish eggs) are often found inside salmon. These eggs are highly nutritious. These were dried along with the rest of the fish, the gelatinous mass of roe being taken out whole and suspended over one of the poles in the dry rack. Such dried roe has to be soaked or boiled before eating.

Storing Dried Salmon

Once dried, salmon could be taken off the racks and stacked up for storage. Dried fish will stay good for many months. Traditionally, the dried salmon was place in boxes high, called up in trees, far above the morning dew level. Some families also built special storage houses which were small, shed-roofed cedar plank structures called caches, which were elevated on poles above the ground. If the salmon had not completely dried on the racks, these storehouses could also be used to further the drying process.

Smoked Salmon (sq'éylo)

Smoked salmon is one of the most common ways fish are preserved today. Many people have purchased small smokers and use it on their catch. This smoking technology has deep roots in the history of the Stó:lô people, who still smoke their fish today. In the fall, most fish which were not caught in the Fraser Canyon were smoked. The fish are butchered in the same way that is done for drying, but without the score marks. A tightly-sealed "smokehouse" is constructed from cedar planks and alder-wood is stacked for burning. This wood gives fish the best possible flavour. The cut fish is hung over low-burning fires.

The length of time needed to smoke fish depends on what will be done with it after the smoking is finished. Traditionally, the fish was kept over the fire for just over a week. After such a long time, the fish can be stored without risk of it going bad very soon. Today, people often only smoke the fish for 24 hours and then put it in their freezer. In one method, fish are smoked for four days and then canned. This give the salmon a smoky flavour on the outside and keeps it tender on the inside.

Figure 9. Inside a large smokehouse (H. Stewart Indian Fishing p. 140).

Stink Eggs (kw':la)

Rotten salmon roe were another important food item of the Stó:lô people. Many elders have recalled not liking the taste of this food, but ate it because it was highly nutritious and kept until the end of the winter. A hole is dug in the ground about 1 to 1.5 meters wide and 80 centimetres deep. The hole is then lined with fresh maple leaves. A sharp stick is taken to the leaves to puncture holes in them. This will let the oil from the salmon roe drain through. Fresh bundles of salmon roe are then put in the hole and then covered with a further layer of leaves and earth. The eggs are left in the hole for the winter (about 4-5 months) and when removed have the texture of cheese. Other names for kw':la are "hum eggs" and Fraser River bacon".

Figure 10. "Stink Eggs" buried in a pit (H. Stewart Indian Fishing p. 146).

Smoked Meat

The animals hunted were usually smoked so that they would keep for long periods of time. When on a hunting expedition away from the village, the hunters or the women travelling with them would often smoke the deer, elk, bear and mountain goat right at the place they caught it. A small rack with shelves, about 1.5 to 2 meters tall, is often constructed for smoking the meat. The walls of the rack are lined with fir boughs which were used to keep the smoke in. The meat is cut into slabs about two to three centimetres thick and hung over the shelves on the rack. A fire is lit underneath the meat which roasts and smokes it. This smoked meat is a lot lighter to carry back to the community than a whole carcass, thus much more meat could be obtained for the family. Sometimes meat was cached in the mountains for hunters to use on their future journeys. The smoked meat was almost always prepared by boiling after soaking in water overnight.

Preparing and Preserving Wild Berries

Preserving berries has traditionally been a very important nutritional source for Stó:lô people in the winter, when fresh fruit are not widely available. Traditional berry preserves are made by drying them individually on a thick cedar-bark mat hung above a fire for two or three days. The berries which are most often hung to dry are huckleberries, blackberries, and salal-berries.

Juneberries and elderberries made excellent berry cakes. To make these cakes, the berries are pounded into a pulp, sometimes after having been boiled. Frames or molds for holding the berry-pulp were traditionally made of either a shallow cedar stick frame, 75 centimetres square, which was covered with maple leaves; or by creased cedar-bark strips folded into a square about 30 centimetres long and 5 centimetres deep. The berries are then poured into the frames and set out on cedar planks to dry in the sun, or were sometimes covered with more maple leaves and hot ashes. The drying berries have to be continually watched to make sure the wasps and flies do not get into them. Sometimes small, smoky fires help this. The berry cakes which form after they are dry can be eaten after being soaked in hot water.

Breads (seplí:l)

Several different kinds of breads are traditional foods of the Stó:lô people. Moss bread and fern-root flour bread are likely not familiar to many people. Bannock, however, has become a famous First Nations dish. Stó:lô people have traditions associated with all these breads.

One kind of bread is made out of "beard-moss" which hangs off of trees high up in the mountains. This moss is collected from the trees and then boiled until it turns black. The black, boiled moss is then set out on a dish in the form of a cake. When dry, the moss is eaten like bread.

The roots of the bracken fern, which grows commonly in the wooded areas of the Fraser Valley, can be made into a flour and into bread. The roots are set out on sticks and roasted for about 10 minutes over an open fire. The roots are then put on a hard surface and pounded, turning the root as it is being hit. This pounding loosens the skin and softens the interior. The skin is scraped off and the eatable interior is further pounded and ground into a flour. This fern-root flour is then mixed with salmon roe and is baked in the ashes of the fire. After cooking, the bread is served fresh.

More recently, Bannock, or fried bread became an important part of many First Nations people's diet. Bannock is simply prepared by mixing and kneading flour (1000 ml), baking powder (25 ml), salt (dash) and water (375 ml) and then frying until golden brown in a deep dish of hot oil. Sonny McHalsie of Ohamil gave a story he heard from Elder Annie York of how, during the gold rush, a Xwelitem (non-Native "hungry person") showed a Stó:lô person how to make bannock. The Stó:lô man went back to his village and gathered everyone around to show them his new food. He forgot to mix it with water and the bannock didn't turn out. The women reminded him that it was not traditional and then prepared the black moss bread.


Traditional foods continue to be of major importance to Stó:lô society. Every summer and fall the shores of the Fraser River are lined with Stó:lô fishers, catching salmon for their families and livelihood. Women continue to collect the plants and berries to be eaten in the home. Although confined by rapid urbanization, some Stó:lô men drive out to good hunting grounds throughout the province. These traditional foods provides a historical and economic continuity with the past, and ensure the security of Stó:lô families for the future.

Instructional Strategies for:

Stó:lô Food Preservation and Preparation

Contemporary and Traditional Practices

Home Economics 10, 11, 12

First Nations Studies 12

Brian Thom

Stó:lô Curriculum Consortium

December 1995

Learning Outcomes (suggested)

Understand the importance and significance of traditional Stó:lô food preparation and preservation techniques.

Gain an appreciation for Stó:lô culture and traditions.

Be able to prepare some traditional Stó:lô dishes.

Instructional Strategies (suggested)


This curriculum is intended to give students new exposure to some of the cultural traditions surrounding Stó:lô food. The paper which accompanies these instructional strategies presents some information about how traditional Stó:lô foods are obtained and about how they are prepared for preservation and consumption. The background information given in the first sections of the paper is intended to provide the cultural context for gaining a richer understanding of the food preparation techniques outlined in the later section. Learning about the culture which produces these foods expands the student's knowledge and appreciation of the world and people around them.

As this curriculum is intended mainly for the public school system at the senior grade levels (grades 10, 11 and 12), the paper assumes that the learners have little or no background knowledge about the Stó:lô people, their culture and history. It has been written so that people outside Stó:lô culture can learn (and subsequently teach) topics which relate to Stó:lô traditions in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner.

Class Reading and Discussion

When approaching the topic of traditional Stó:lô foods, the class should be provided with the reading or parts of it, which will be reviewed in class. A number of discussion questions can be generated from the reading before the food preparation begins. These questions will deal with the cultural background material provided in the paper, which should give all students some of the context for learning about traditional Stó:lô foods.

How have Stó:lô people traditionally obtained their food?

- fishing

- hunting

- gathering

- intimate connection with the land and resources

How is this different from how most contemporary Canadians get their food?

- grocery shopping

- home gardens

- agriculture

What are some of the traditional foods that Stó:lô people eat?

- salmon & other fish

- deer, elk, bear, mountain goat

- ducks, geese

- berries (all kinds), wild potatoes, fern roots, moss

What are some of the reasons for a change in how food is obtained and what food is eaten?

- urbanization

- wide-spread integration of labour/market economy

What are some of the traditional roles of men, women and people of different ages in fishing, hunting and gathering?

- men primarily catch the fish & hunt for the meat

- women do most of the food processing

- both men and women must work together to provide for the community

- children are involved in processing food (learning from their mothers), and

in activities that need a number of people such as the deer drive.

- older people are the teachers of the skills and traditions

What is the importance of preservation food in Stó:lô society?

- prepares people for the winter when foods are less abundant

- allows a surplus of abundant food to be traded for foods not locally available

What are some of the teachings, philosophies and beliefs from the stories told by Stó:lô elders in the paper?

- very open-ended question. good for discussion


Meal Preparation

Having reviewed with the students some of the cultural context of food in Stó:lô society, the class should be ready and enthusiastic to prepare traditional Stó:lô foods. Any number of the foods can be prepared from the descriptions given in the paper, although drying salmon may be particularly difficult.

Excellent activities would be:

learning how to cut salmon properly for drying or smoking

smoking properly cut salmon in a contemporary smoker and canning it

roasting properly cut salmon over an open fire

making a "stink egg" pit as a class project (done early in the fall and eaten in the spring)

collection of bracken fern roots from a provincial park or other location to prepare fern root flour bread

drying berries to make the dried "fruit leather" or if more berries are available the berry cake

making bannock in class

Guest Speaker

The most effective way to learn about traditional Stó:lô food preparation and preservation techniques is to bring a guest speaker into the class to guide students in preparing a meal. Consult the Stó:lô Curriculum Consortium Cultural Resource Persons Guide for suggestions of people who may be contacted.

Alternately, field trips can be organized to the Coqualeetza Longhouse by contacting Stó:lô Nation education department where foods may be prepared and shared with students.

Assessment Strategies (suggested)

Students should be assessed on their participation in group and class discussion and their comprehension of different ideas associated with traditional foods.

Students should be assessed on their ability to read the material on Stó:lô food preservation and preparation techniques and use that information in class discussion.

Students should be assessed on their participation in the preparation of traditional Stó:lô dishes.

Students should be attentive and respectful of the guest speaker.