If you haven’t eaten eulachon grease all your life, you probably might not like the taste of it,” chuckles Stanley Beans, a Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala Guardian Watchman. “We call it gleetna, and we’ve eaten it all our lives, so we like it.” Harold Glendale, also a Watchman, adds: “It’s really good for you. We use it as food, with potatoes for example, and as medicine.”
In 2015 both Watchmen participated in the annual spring journey to the head of Knight Inlet to harvest and prepare gleetna, a process that can take as much as a month. “After catching the fish, it is put into the ground for about ten days,” says Stanley. “Then it’s lightly boiled in cooking pots set up next to the river. The grease is skimmed off the top and boiled again to get rid of any water, and then put into jugs for storage.” It’s a rite that has been practised by Stanley and Harold’s forebears since time immemorial, and one of the many aspects of their job that they thoroughly enjoy.
A Long List of Jobs To Do:
Processing eulachon was just one of their many activities in 2015. “We surveyed crab fishing in the area,” says Stanley. “There are very few crabs remaining, and mostly they are small, so we discourage any fishing in our area. We also spent quite a bit of time putting signage up on islands in our territory to alert people to fire bans and to let people know where they are and where they can go.”
“The Watchmen often provide assistance and guidance to tourists, while monitoring their activities and numbers. “We get quite a few tourists,” says Harold. “They like to come and learn about us and the culture. We just have a small village but we do have a Big House and several totems that we put up last year. We also have walking trails, and we spent quite a bit of time this year trail-clearing to complete them.”
The work of the Watchmen can be a collaborative effort with Watchmen from neighbouring First Nations. “We worked with K’ómoks First Nation on a training program, and did a few ride-alongs out on the water with Mamalilikulla says Harold.
Getting Out on the Water:
With the planned acquisition of a new boat in 2016, being out on the water more is something both men are looking forward to. “That’s really going to be great. Being out on the water in our territory, that’s at the heart of what we are doing,” concludes Harold. Stanley nods in agreement. “It’s such an interesting place to be and to work.”