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To Feed all the People: Lucille Clifton’s Fall Feasts for the Gitga’at Community of Hartley Bay

With thanks to all her family and friends who remember her generosity and teachings, we dedicate this paper to the memory of Lucille Clifton, her husband Heber Clifton, and to all the children, youth, and Elders of the Gitga’at Nation. Abstract Lucille Clifton, Eagle Matriarch of the Gitga’at (Tsimshian) community of Hartley Bay on the north coast of British Columbia, passed away in 1962 at the age of 86.

She and her husband, Heber Clifton, were important and respected leaders of the Gitga’at Nation. Through her knowledge of traditional foods, her dedication to her community, and her teachings to her grandchildren and other Gitga’at children, Lucille had a tremendous and enduring influence on the Gitga’at’s present status as a people who still rely on and celebrate their traditional foods.

Lucille’s grandchildren (including two co-authors of this paper), themselves now respected elders, recall that Lucille and the other Eagle women regularly hosted a feast around Thanksgiving every year from the 1920s to the 1950s, in which they served an array of tradi- tional foods, including cambium of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Amabilis Fir Abies amabilis), edible seaweed (Porphyra abbottiae), Pacific Crabapples (Malus fusca) and Highbush Cranberries (Viburnum edule) in whipped oulachen grease, many different fish and shellfish dishes, and a variety of other dishes from the marine and terrestrial environ- ments of Gitga’at territory.

Today, as traditional food is increasingly recognized as vital for Indigenous Peoples’ health and well-being, Lucille’s teachings are as important as ever, help- ing her descendants to maintain their resilience, self sufficiency, and cultural identity in the face of immense global change.


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