Native Village 
Youth and Education News

March 1, 2013

Traveling exhibit at Lynden museum explores traditional foods of Puget Sound natives
Condensed by Native Village


Washington" A new traveling exhibit at Lynden Pioneer Museum deals with a big issue: the importance of what people eat and where their food comes from.

The "Salish Bounty" exhibit was compiled by the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. The exhibit's subtitle, "Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound," makes the focus clear. Traditional Salish tribes in the Puget Sound area, including the Lummis and Nooksacks, ate more than 280 species of plants and animals.

"Nooksack" is the European spelling of a word describing the heart of the Nooksack lands, a prairie full of bracken ferns near the mouth of Anderson Creek. The name means "Always Bracken Fern Root." Bracken roots  were a dietary staple for the Nooksacks.

Of course, more than greens were on the menu.

"We ate deer, we ate elk, we ate fish," said Elizabeth King George, a member of the Nooksack Tribe.

She and her husband interviewed tribal members about traditional foods, partly to educate younger generations about foods that nourished their grandparents and great-grandparents. The foods have changed. For example. hunting and fishing regulations make it difficult for youth to experience capturing and eating wild game.

Salish Stir Fry Recipe

"I've noticed that change in my lifetime," Elizabeth said. "My kids never really got to taste what deer tasted like, what elk tasted like."

So she and her husband were pleased the Burke Museum asked them to co-curate the traveling exhibit.  Among the features are posters, informational banners, and a 4-minute video about archaeological research into Salish foods,

"It's a pretty neat thing," said Elizabeth King George. "It's nice to be a part of that."

The "Salish Bounty" exhibit runs through June 24.

The exhibit also shares the pressures put on Indians to give up their traditional foods, along with their languages, and cultural practices.  Stickney Island Mission School was a government school for Indians. It operated in Lynden from the early 1890s into the early 1900s.

"They were there to de-Indianize them," said Troy Luginbill, director of the Lynden Museum. "It's a dark period of American history."

Tribes today are working to blend modern nutritional insights with traditional foods. "Salish Bounty" visitors can take home recipes from the Northwest Indian College book, "Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit: Revitalizing Northwest Coastal Indian Food Culture."

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