First Fish Ceremony features COVID-19 precautions

By Lisa Pemberton, Puyallup Tribal News Editor

The Culture Department hosted the Tribe’s annual First Fish Ceremony on May 23.

As in years past, the salmon was blessed, filleted and its remains were returned back to the water, with the hope that it would tell its relatives that it was treated with respect. There were songs, dances and blanket-wrapped honored witnesses who talked about the importance of the ceremony for the Tribe.  

“These are traditions that have been handed down to each and every one of us,” said Tribal Council member Sylvia Miller. “We are the fishing people. These are our main foods that we’ve had for years.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain parts of the ceremony were modified to promote social distancing and help prevent the spread of the virus: 

  • People were asked to view the ceremony from inside their vehicles.
  • All participants or those outside of their vehicles were asked to wear masks.
  • Instead of sitting together as a community for the feast, meals were handed out in to-go boxes. The meals included mouth-watering salmon that was cooked over alder fire, salad, huckleberry vinaigrette, dinner rolls, huckleberry cupcakes and freshly harvested camas.

The Culture Department provided colorful bandanas, which could double as face masks, as the giveaway item.

Tribal Council members participated in the ceremony, and help deliver the meals to each vehicle. Fresh fruit and bottles of water were also given away.

“It’s always good to gather,” said Tribal Chairman David Z. Bean. “I look forward to every opportunity to get together even if it’s behind masks, or in our cars. This is still good medicine. We have a responsibility to do this work every year – to honor that first fish. It’s honoring that fish, but it’s also laying down prayers and blessings for the fisherman.” View a live-stream video of the ceremony on the Tribe’s Facebook page.