The air is getting colder and the days shorter, fall is here, and in Eeyou Istchee, winter comes quickly. Winter is a tough season, and for those that are not prepared for it, it can be especially long. Long ago, those that lived in off of the land had to prepare for winter to ensure that they and their family had enough to eat for the winter months. The food preparation often involved smoking meat to preserve it and thus ensure that there was enough to eat during a season that is often unforgiving.
ACCI continued this tradition and dedicated a week to smoking fish. Now that the weather and leaves on the trees are changing colour, the geese are starting to fly and that means that the trout are starting to spawn and this is the time of the year to catch fish.
Just catching fish is the first step, building a place to smoke the fish is the next step. We decided that best place for us to teach everyone how to smoke fish was in our parking lot. We built a dome right in the front of our building, and we started a small fire. Once we had the fire was warming up, it was time to teach our visitors how to clean fish and prepare them to be smoked.
The smoke started to attract all sorts of visitors to our demonstration, we had a Chief from Panama participate, two visitors from France came to sample traditional cooking methods, and guests from the United States learned how to clean fish the Eeyou way, even our MP Romeo Saganash stopped in to see what was cooking. On an hourly basis, many of the community members would stop to see what was cooking, and many people came with meat of their own to smoke as well. The demonstration went from teaching visitors about and reasons for smoking fish to people preparing for the winter months.
As each day went on, more and more people stopped by to sample some of the tasty treats that were prepared. The consensus each day; the fish was perfect.
Throughout Eeyou Istchee, now that it is hunting season, the timeless activity of smoking fish and other game is sure to be a daily activity. If you happen to come to Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute or are visiting Eeyou Istchee at you smell a lot of smoke, chances are something good is cooking.
Written by Rob Imrie, Coordinator of Education