With the peak of summer light having passed, seasonal rains now dampened the land bringing the first salmon into the local streams and rivers to complete their journeys to ancestral spawning waters.
Most of the migrating salmon still milled about offshore in the river’s estuary waiting to be stimulated by the right olfactory message within the rain-refreshed waters to swim upstream along the creeks and rivers where they had been born. Having survived the trials of ocean life, their numbers were still subject to reduction by orcas and seals gorging on the migrating schools. For those who survived, they now swarm the gauntlet of stabbing claws, gnashing teeth and pecking bills that awaited them on their upstream, homeward journey. This they endured while struggling against the flow, around natural barriers and over rapids, vying for the choice spawning sites amidst challenging splashes of territorial defending and redd building activity on their epic journey. Raven took full advantage of the migrating season and speared numerous carcasses, savoring choice pieces of flesh left on the river banks or amongst the trees by the feasting bears, eagles and gulls.
Within days of spawning, completing the process of depositing fertilized eggs in the graveled beds, salmon die and their spent bodies begin drifting slowly downstream. Many skeletal remains in addition to fish-enriched scat will also be deposited throughout the forest by feasting animals assuring that throughout the food web: bacteria, algae, fungi, invertebrates, insect populations, amphibians, the river’s resident fish, predators, mosses,plants, bushes, trees…all will benefit from the successful spawning journey of the salmon.
These same waters ferrying the dead fish oceanward shelter their eggs in the bottom gravels until the young hatch into the fingerlings that in time, follow ancestral impulses seaward. Thus, Salmon People share potlatch with their home waters via their flesh and fertile eggs so the whole ecosystem may prosper.
(To be continued in Chapter 14: Breathing the Trees