The United Indian Students in Higher Education (UISHE) held its annual salmon bake on Friday, May 19, on the Portland State Park Blocks. The UISHE provided attendees with a meal that consisted of traditionally baked salmon and sides of fruit, rice, corn and salad.
Those who attended the event were treated to traditional dancing from Pacific Island dancers and drummers who performed songs throughout the event. Other event participants dressed in traditional pow wow regalia.
The salmon bake is held every year to give back to the Portland community and show a part of Native culture that some don’t get to see.
The head organizers discussed the significance of the event with the Vanguard.
“This is considered by the people originally from here, the indigenous people as salmon country,” Kevin Thomas said. “A lot of people identify as salmon people.” He continued explaining the cultural significance of salmon to the native people in the past and now.
Among tribes of the Pacific Northwest, salmon is caught and smoked and traded with other native tribes along the west coast and what is now known as Canada. So it is of economic and cultural importance to the tribes of the Northwest.
Judy Bluehorse-Skelton, a full-time faculty member at PSU, teaches in the Indigenous Nations study program that includes indigenous gardening and food justice, indigenous women leadership and indigenous ecological healing practices.
“The cultural significance is salmon is our relative,” Bluehorse-Skelton said while explaining the importance of salmon to Pacific Northwest Tribes. “Salmon is our brother. Salmon is life.”
The event hadn’t taken place for a couple of years but is typically held on the southern Park Blocks near the PSU Native American Student and Community Center.
Bluehorse-Skelton explained to the Vanguard how many Native PSU students have been preparing for the event of this year’s salmon bake. “They go to classes and do cultural giveaways.”
Students at PSU who wish to learn more about native culture and traditions can visit the NASCC where events and other functions are held.
NASCC events are held throughout the year and attendance is open to all PSU students.