Manitoba

Tradition of fishing provides future for youth, Garden Hill man says

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and it could mean a secure future for his entire community. Borrowing from the old proverb, Ivan Harper believes fishing is the future for Garden Hill youth.

Fisherman believes economic opportunities exist in First Nation's fishing industry

Ivan Harper shows us why fishing is so important in Garden Hill. 1:31

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and it could mean a secure future for his entire community. Borrowing from the old proverb, Ivan Harper believes fishing is the future for Garden Hill youth.

Harper's family has set a net in the same spot in Island Lake for three generations. On a recent trip home, he was nice enough to take my son and I out on the lake.

Pulling nets looks easy. Harper and his two friends run like a finely tuned machine — so smooth, it's almost automatic. They're out here on almost a daily basis, even in blizzards.

Ivan Harper shows my son, Fynn, and I a lake trout. He says he netted a massive lake trout, bigger than this one, the previous day, but just as it was coming out of the ice, it fell off the net. He looked into the open ice fishing hole and said he could still see it at the bottom of the lake. It's proof, I think, that all fisherman are alike — they’re good at telling tales and just can’t quite let go of the one that got away. (CBC)
Harper said there are still some families like his that have held onto their deep roots in fishing. But others lost the skills when children were sent out of the community to residential school.

"I know some of them had very traditional parents, but they went to school and came back — they don't know nothing about fisheries, fishing and food," he said.

It's important for more youth to be re-introduced to traditional practices, Harper said.

Last year, gardening and chicken farming programs were introduced to Garden Hill youth.

Ivan Harper fishes on Island Lake in the same spot his father and grandfather set their nets. (CBC)
Harper hopes steps can be taken to get running water and washrooms in their fish processing facility. There are restaurants in Winnipeg waiting to do business, he said.

"What I want to see is restaurants ordering from this fish plant, like every order we get, we just deliver to the airport," Harper said.

"Because we have premium fish up here."