Tulalip Tribes prepare for salmon chief

TULALIP — The first salmon of the season.

For members of the Tulalip Tribes, the silver king, raised above the heads of tribal fishermen, signals the start of the season of plenty. Every year, when the salt water that laps at the edge of their reservation turns from frigid to tolerable, tradition holds that the natural resources of their land offer them a table fully set.

The day begins with a parade that runs along Totem Beach Road. When the parade, which has been free and open to the public in the past, reaches the Tulalip longhouse near the tribes’ administration center, tribal members will welcome “Haik Saib Yo Bouch” — Big Chief King Salmon.

Once Big Chief is welcomed, tribal members will feast on its flaky pink flesh, and return its bones to the water.

The spirit of Big Chief will report to its relatives on its treatment. If he makes a good report, salmon will fill the region’s waterways, so plentiful that they appear to make a bridge across the water with their silver backs.

The Salmon Ceremony is one of the region’s most public American Indian spiritual ceremonies. Longhouse ceremonies, which are conducted primarily throughout the winter, are closed to outsiders. What happens there is held sacred, and closely guarded by those who practice longhouse traditions.

During the Salmon Ceremony, tribal members are eager to honor their culture in full view of their nontribal neighbors.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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