Kenai youth learn to make basket traps

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010

KENAI - The Kenaitze Indian Tribe started a five-day camp this week to teach youth traditional fishing practices.

Yaghanen, or Youth Services, Coordinator Michael Bernard taught predominantly Kenaitze youth how to build fish-catching baskets, prepare the salmon and hang the fish for smoking. Bernard said that the camp focuses on preserving not only traditional fishing means and techniques, but also the values behind tribal harvesting practices. The camp teaches students to treat fish and natural resources with respect, he said.

"Some people see the fish limit as a goal," said Tribal Youth Advocate Doug Gates. "You don't need to hit the limit. You just take what you need."

Bernard said that the fish basket frames are traditionally built with 10-foot-long alder branches. Dena'ina in the past used sinew or spruce roots to hold the branches together, he said. To prepare spruce roots, camper Brendan Coltun said, the tribe cut and split the spruce, then soaked the roots in water to add flexibility.

At this camp, for the sake of time, youngsters wrapped string around a dish to measure out foot-long strands to wrap around the traps. The branches stand three to four inches apart once the basket is put together, he said. Birch branches hold the basket in the river bed.

Bernard said that the camp hasn't caught fish using a basket trap to date, but he hopes to change that next year.

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