TULALIP — The longhouse on the shores of Tulalip Bay echoed with drums and voices and filled with the smoke of twin cedar fires as members of the Tulalip Tribes marked the start of salmon season Saturday.
The annual Tulalip Salmon Ceremony is when the tribes honor the first king salmon of the season, bless the fishermen that will work the tribal fisheries and welcome guests from as far away as Alaska and Colorado to a traditional feast.
The ceremony began in the longhouse, with tribal drummers, singers and dancers of all ages gathered in the middle between the two fires.
Hundreds of people sat around the edges of the space. The first salmon was brought ashore in a litter and escorted to the longhouse before everyone moved over to the gym for the traditional meal.
Tulalip vice-chairman Glen Gobin, who led the ceremony Saturday, told tribal members and guests that they should especially be mindful of their resources this year after an unusually mild and dry winter.
“They’re saying this lack of snowpack hasn’t happened in 50 years,” Gobin said, urging members not to take the abundance of nature for granted.
“We do not stand here for ourselves today, we stand here for the young ones in the middle,” he said, indicating the numerous children interspersed with the adults, many of them in traditional regalia.
The salmon ceremony was revived in 1976 by tribal elders Harriet Dover and Dan Morris, and was passed down from Stanley Jones Sr. and Bernard Gobin to Glen Gobin, who is responsible for keeping the ceremony alive today.
After the salmon feast, the remains of the first king salmon were returned to the water, where tradition holds it will swim back to its people to tell them of the good treatment by the Tulalips, which in turn will lead to a good fishing season.