Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Fish club

hak’alaaxw “fish club”
Language: Nisga’a

As soon as they came to the fishing ground, they baited their hooks and threw the lines into the water. When the fishing lines touched bottom, Chief Cormorant had a bite from a halibut at once, and hauled up his line with a halibut at each end. He clubbed them and took them into the canoe.

—From “Txä΄msem and Cormorant,” told by Henry W. Tate, “Tsimshian Mythology,” 1916

The old coastal Tsimshian villages were often situated near deep-water banks where halibut were abundant in spring. Fishermen caught them with hook and line and killed them with yew-wood clubs. The fish were too strong, vigorous, and large – up to three hundred pounds – to bring into a canoe safely while still alive. Artist David Boxley identified the figure carved on this Nisga’a fish club as a wolf. Clubs were also used to kill salmon as they swam in shallow streams.

Culture: Tsimshian
Region: Skeena River, British Columbia, Canada
Object Category: Fishing
Dimensions: Length 45cm
Accession Date: 1917
Source: George T. Emmons (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 082608.000