Rachel Elizabeth Wilbur

Grant Type

Engaged Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of

Grant number

Gr. ERG-27

Approve Date

February 4, 2022

Project Title

Wilbur, Rachel (North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of) "Spirit of the Sxwo'le Society's Resurgence on the Salish Sea"

Reef net fishing is the traditional practice of a few Indigenous communities in Washington State and British Columbia; it is found nowhere else in the world. Straits Salish people are salmon people, oral tradition teaches that the reef net was a gift from Xelas, the Creator. Reef netting, language, culture, and connection to land and water are intimately tied. Despite its importance, disputes with settlers led to the loss of reef netting on both sides of the border in the early 1900s, a loss classified as historically traumatic. In the last decade, a small number of Indigenous fishermen have started to re-learn the practice. There are currently two traditional Indigenous-run reef nets in Washington State and Canada which are being used to teach future generations. The process of engaging with oral tradition and culture in order to once again fish as formerly has been described as healing. This 2-part project will collect ethnographic interviews of reef net history, traditions, culture, and values with inherent right holders, knowledge bearers, and youth engaged in the reef net fishery. It will also document physiological markers of healing through the collection of biospecimens from fishermen over the course of a reef net season.