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Fall Harvest: Words to Know

Last month, we shared a blog about Lucille Clifton's feasts and late summer foods for harvesting. Seasonal harvesting is a significant part of Gitga'at culture, and many Sm'algyax words relate to fall harvest.

The Importance of Fall Harvest

The fall harvest is significant for the Gitga'at people. It's more than gathering and preserving food; it's a time to connect with culture, history, and tradition. This connection is like threads woven together, including how food is harvested and the stories and ceremonies that tie into the changing seasons.

During the fall harvest, gathering and preparing food is about following time-honoured customs and rituals. Collecting food at different places in Gitga'at territory throughout the year provides a variety of food all year round.

When summer turns into fall, usually around September, families go back to Kitkiata (Old Town). This is an important time because it's when the Gitga'at people gather salmon from fishing, animals from hunting, berries, and other wild foods. These activities aren't only about collecting food and coming together as a community, sharing stories, and teaching younger generations about fall harvest traditions.

Connect to Culture through Language

Many words relate to the fall harvest. Here are some Sm'algyax words to add to your vocabulary just in time for autumn gatherings:

K'dis koos: Kish kosh

When families returned to Hartley Bay for the winter in October, they would venture to K'dis Koos and Clamstown to collect clams and cockles.

Txaw: Halibut

Harvested in fall, winter, and spring, txaw are often cut into thin strips and dried, or their heads and backbones are smoked and cooked into soup.

Wüüx: Coho salmon

Caught in fall, especially at Kitkiata, wüüx are often dried, and the eggs are made into "caviar" and salmon egg cheese.

Ha'ax: Canada geese

These birds are hunted at Kitkiata in the fall and are roasted or made into soup.

Wan: Black-tailed deer

Hunted at Kitkiata and elsewhere in the fall, wan is prepared into steaks, stews, and ribs. The deer fat is used in traditional medicine.

Kbaüüla: Seal oil

Oil rendered from the kbaüüla was sometimes used as a condiment at feasts, alongside, or as a replacement for oulachen grease.

K'awtsi: Oulachen grease

K'awtsi was obtained through trade from Nisga'a and Haisla friends and relatives. Usually, it was exchanged for dried edible seaweed.

Dayks: "Indian Ice Cream"

A delicious dessert made up of berries with whipped grease, snow or water and sweetened with sugar.

Food Brings People Together

Fall harvest is a time to gather and connect with Gitga'at traditions and culture. The bounty of food collected during harvest can be served at feasts and other community events that bring people together around a table.


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