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Gitga'at Spring Harvest Tradition at Kiel Camp

Gitga'at Spring Harvest Tradition at Kiel Camp

Every spring, members of the Gitga'at community travel to Kiel camp on Princess Royal Island. Here, they engage in a timeless tradition—the spring harvest. The spring harvest is part of culture and tradition; it's a time to acquire food, strengthen the community, and learn from each other.

Seaweed and Other Foods

In May, members collect red laver seaweed, known as lha'ask, on Kiel's shores. Seaweed, along with other spring delicacies collected on Kiel and nearby islands, becomes meal staples throughout the year.

During the spring Kiel harvest camp, members gather or catch foods such as:

Txaw (Halibut): On return to Hartley Bay, these are sliced thin and dried, and heads and backbones smoked and cooked into soup.

Yeeh (Spring Salmon): Members dry the salmon for future consumption.

Ts'mhoon (Red snapper): These are cured, filleted, and fried.

‘Yaanst (Smaller chitons): Boiled and eaten.

Üüla (Harbour Seal): Hunted occasionally in spring and used for meat and oil; flippers cooked separately.

Ooylh (Thimbleberry and salmonberry shoots): Young shoots are peeled and eaten raw in spring, sometimes dipped in grease and sugar.

Lak'oots (Wild rhubarb): The leaves and leaf stalks are cooked and eaten with oulachen grease and riceroot.

P'iins, layoon (Cow-parsnip): Young budstalks and leafstalks are peeled and eaten fresh in April and May.

Miyumbmgyet (Northern Riceroot): These white starchy bulbs are steamed and eaten with grease and sugar and sometimes with "wild rhubarb."

Lgumet (eggs) and Gaguum and gyedmxł (Eggs of seagulls and Black Oystercatcher): These are cooked and eaten as a delicacy.

Means of Trade

Traditionally, the spring harvest is more than just sustenance; it's about connection with each other and other groups. Women would gather seaweed, families came together, and some journeyed to Kitamaat to trade their harvest for oulachen grease and other treasures.

Preserving the Harvest

Following the spring harvest at Kiel in June, members return to Hartley Bay with quantities of food that will help sustain them throughout the year. The community works together to preserve these foods, storing them safely for future meals and feasts. These moments of togetherness are filled with gratitude and great care for each other.

Read More about Harvest Seasons

Spring harvest is an enduring bond between land and people, a time to practice tradition and connect with the community. 

Revisit the Gitga'at First Nation's harvesting traditions by reading "To Feed all the People": Lucille Clifton's Fall Feasts for the Gitga'at Community of Hartley Bay, British Columbia by Nancy Turner, Colleen Robinson, Gideon Robinson, and Belle Eaton. 


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