Discover your family's story.

Enter a grandparent's name to get started.

Start Now

Powhatan Fishing Customs

The Powhatan tribes still adhere to some fishing practices worth mentioning. Until not long ago fish fences were employed. These were chiefly for sturgeon, but now this splendid fish is so scarce that whereas thirty years ago from three to six a day during July and August would be taken, now the record is three a season by six boats fishing the same period. Captain John Smith mentions 52 and 68 being taken ”at a draught.”1 The Virginia explorers noted the great abundance of sturgeon, and we may imagine that the fish contributed largely to the abundance of food of the early Indians. The method employed in the construction of the fish-pond or “bush-net” is described by several of the men at Pamunkey and Mattaponi. At the entrance of the smaller creeks, or guts, branching off from the main streams there was built a barrier of poles several feet apart driven upright into the ever-present mud at low tide when the water is out of the place. The “bush-nets” or “hedges” are well remembered by John Langston as having been worked by his father some seventy-five years ago. They were known and described among the neighboring Delawares and Nanticoke in early colonial times. The “hedges” were made low enough in some instances so that the fish could pass over their tops at high tide. Then, as the water went out on the ebb, they would be barred from returning to the river (fig. 65). In the enclosures where the water might be from six to eight feet deep the hunters could shoot the impounded fish with arrows or spear...

Life and travels of Colonel James Smith – Indian Captivities

James Smith, pioneer, was born in Franklin county, Pennsylvania, in 1737. When he was eighteen years of age he was captured by the Indians, was adopted into one of their tribes, and lived with them as one of themselves until his escape in 1759. He became a lieutenant under General Bouquet during the expedition against the Ohio Indians in 1764, and was captain of a company of rangers in Lord Dunmore’s War. In 1775 he was promoted to major of militia. He served in the Pennsylvania convention in 1776, and in the assembly in 1776-77. In the latter year he was commissioned colonel in command on the frontiers, and performed distinguished services. Smith moved to Kentucky in 1788. He was a member of the Danville convention, and represented Bourbon county for many years in the legislature. He died in Washington county, Kentucky, in 1812. The following narrative of his experience as member of an Indian tribe is from his own book entitled “Remarkable Adventures in the Life and Travels of Colonel James Smith,” printed at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1799. It affords a striking contrast to the terrible experiences of the other captives whose stories are republished in this book; for he was well treated, and stayed so long with his red captors that he acquired expert knowledge of their arts and customs, and deep insight into their character.

Yuchi Fishing

Quite naturally fishing plays an important part in the life of the Yuchi who have almost always lived near streams furnishing fish in abundance. Catfish, cu dj?á, garfish, pike, cu cpá, bass, cu wadá, and many other kinds are eagerly sought for by families and sometimes by whole communities at a time, to vary their diet. We find widely distributed among the people of the Southeast a characteristic method of getting fish by utilizing certain vegetable poisons which are thrown into the water. Among the Yuchi the practice is as follows. During the months of July and August many families gather at the banks of some convenient creek for the purpose of securing quantities of fish and, to a certain extent, of intermingling socially for a short time. A large stock of roots of devil’s shoestring (Tephrosia virginiana) is laid up and tied in bundles beforehand. The event usually occurs at a place where rifts cause shallow-water below and above a well-stocked pool. Stakes are driven close together at the rifts to act as barriers to the passage and escape of the fish. Then the bundles of roots (Fig. 6) are thrown in and the people enter the water to stir it up. This has the effect of causing the fish, when the poison has had time to act, to rise to the surface, bellies up, seemingly dead. They are then gathered by both men and women and carried away in baskets to be dried for future use, or consumed in a feast which ends the event. The catch is equally divided among those present. Upon which an occasion,...

Fish and Fish Products of Washington

One of the great natural resources of western Washington which has been turned to account is the fish product, although as yet imperfectly understood or developed. The whale fishery is prosecuted only by the Indians of Cape Flattery and the gulf of Georgia. Among the species taken on the coast are the sperm whale, California gray, right whale, and sulphur-bottom. Up the strait of Fuca and in the gulf of Georgia humpbacks are numerous. Formerly the Indians took more whales than now, their attention being at present turned to seal hunting. With only their canoes and rude appliances the Makahs of Cape Flattery saved in 1856 oil for export to the amount of $8,000. Olympia Pioneer and Dem., March 5, 1856; Stevens’ Northwest, 10; Wash. Topog., 15, 31; Rept. Com. Ind. Aff, 1858, 232. Cod of two or more varieties are found from Shoalwater Bay to Alaska and beyond. They are of excellent quality when properly cured. The climate of Alaska being too moist, and the air of California drying them too much in the curing process, rendering them hard, it is believed that in Puget Sound may be found the requisite moisture, coolness, and evenness of climate to properly save the cod for export, but no systematic experiments have been made. It was the practice as early as 1856-7 to pickle cod instead of drying, and for several years 200 barrels annually were put up. In 1861 cod were very plentiful in the strait of Fuca, so that the schooners Sarah Newton, the Elizabeth, and other Puget Sound vessels picked up several thousand pounds. In 1869 cod brought...

Pin It on Pinterest