Sunday January 21, 2018

New children's book explores what sockeye salmon mean to the Gitxsan people

Gitxsan writer Brett Huson wrote the Sockeye Mother to share the knowledge he learned as a child about the importance of sockeye salmon.

Gitxsan writer Brett Huson wrote the Sockeye Mother to share the knowledge he learned as a child about the importance of sockeye salmon.

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To the Gitxsan people of Northwestern B.C., sockeye salmon is more than just a source of food. Over its life cycle, it nourishes the land and forests that the Skeena River runs through, which is where the Gitxsan make their home.

Brett D. Huson, a member of the Gitxsan Nation, wrote The Sockeye Mother, a children's book that explores how the animals, water, soil and seasons are all intertwined.

Inside Sockeye Mother

A glimpse at the inside of The Sockeye Mother, a book written by Brett Huson and illustrated by Natasha Donovan.

"Our people basically shaped our existence around the life cycle of the sockeye salmon," he said. "We celebrated the seasons, we celebrated the time when the salmon would come and return to the ocean."

"It was a momentous occasion for us [when they spawned], because we got to restock on the salmon that we had throughout the winter … we were part of distributing the nutrients that salmon bring to the land."

The nutrient that salmon redistributes to the land is nitrogen, said Huson, which helps everything in the forest grow.

Huson said he decided to write the book, because he wanted to share the teachings he learned as a kid.

"I wanted to share some of the things that my grandparents shared with me when I was growing up, when it came to knowledge about the land, knowledge about how everything was connected," said Huson.

"I really wanted to showcase Indigenous knowledge when it comes to the environment, and science."

Always interested in science

An interest in science came to Huson at a young age, and was encouraged by his family.

Huson recalled getting a subscription to Equinox magazine as a child, and reading National Geographic and Popular Science.

"Even one of my questions as a kid made it in Popular Science … I asked why there was more static electricity when it's colder out," said Huson. "It was amazing for me as a kid to see my question in a magazine."

Huson's book is full of scientific information, which he said would have been a welcome addition to his reading list when he was a kid.

"I would have loved to have something like it, it would have given me more pride, it would have allowed me to say, 'Okay our knowledge is important, being an Indigenous person is important,'" said Huson, who hopes the book will inspire the younger generation.

"I hope that it gives [the youth] a different perspective [of the world], so they can truly see how everything is connected."