The Gitga'at people have a rich cultural heritage and traditional harvesting practices that help nourish the community.
Lucille's Amazing Feasts
The Gitga'at's celebration of their traditional foods has been a significant aspect of culture for many years. Lucille, a revered Eagle matriarch, played a central role in preserving and passing down knowledge of traditional foods to her grandchildren and future generations. She and other community women were known for their annual feasts. These gatherings showcased a diverse array of traditional foods sourced from Gitga'at territory.
Lucille's dedication to preserving the traditional ways of harvesting, preparing, and preserving food ensured that her family and community were well-nourished throughout the year.
Seasonal Harvesting for Year-Round Sustenance
Throughout history, Gitga'at families developed a well-established routine of seasonal harvesting. This time-honored practice involved gathering food from different areas throughout Gitga'at territory. By synchronizing their efforts with the natural rhythms of the land and ocean, they could obtain and process various nutritious foods throughout the year.
The significance of traditional food extends beyond nourishment; it is a powerful link to cultural heritage and promotes a sense of community.
In late summer, Gitga'at members gather and prepare various foods for the seasons ahead.
Types of Late Summer Crops
Prepare feasts like Lucille by harvesting late summer and fall foods. Many can be grown in gardens, purchased from Nuxalk and others, or gathered from Old Town.
Here are some ways to prepare these crops:
Potatoes (sgusiit): boil to prepare these vegetables, serve them with grease or seaweed, or add them to soup.
Turnips ('yaanahuu): boil until soft or cook them in soups.
Carrots ('kawts, galots): boil until soft or cook them in soups.
Pacific Crabapples (moolks): Cook and store in grease.
Highbush Cranberries (lhaaya): Cook and store in grease.
Blueberries and other late-ripening fruits (smmay and others): Serve fresh or make into jam.
Pacific Silverweed (yeen): Steam and serve with grease and sugar.
Feast Food from Animals
Hunt, catch, and prepare these foods in the fall. You can often find them at Old Town. For any salmon, you can use the eggs to make "caviar" and salmon egg cheese.
Here are some recommended ways to prepare these foods.
Pink Salmon/Humps/Humpies (stmoon): partially smoke the salmon.
Coho Salmon (wüüx): Dry it out.
Chum Salmon (gayniis): Boil it in soup.
Birds: Animals such as Canada geese (ha'ax), snow geese (lhii'wn), mallard ducks (nanaat, nana, an'ana), and grouse (maxmeex) can be roasted or made into soup.
Black-tailed Deer (wan): Use different cuts to prepare this meat into steaks, stews, or ribs.
Food Preparation All Year
Gitga'at members continue seasonal harvests, which forges a deeper connection to the land and cultural identity. These traditions nourish the community, foster self-sufficiency, and offer resiliency in an ever-changing world.
Learn more about Lucille, her feasts, and harvesting year-round in Gitga'at territory by reading "To Feed All the People."