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OP: Gathering What the Great Nature Provided

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by The people of ‘Ksan

This scarce and noteworthy book examines the traditional foodways of the First Peoples who occupied great stretches along the Pacific coastal region of what is now the United States and Canada. The compilers, a team of tribal ethnographers from the ‘Ksan museum in British Columbia, cover both the better-known tribes of the area—Haida, Tshimshian, Nootka, and Tlingit—and many smaller groups, drawing from tape recordings of the elders in their native tongue who still held knowledge of pre-contact customs and histories.

The 90 self-designated Book Builders assembled fully detailed information on methods of food gathering, storage, cooking, and preserving, dealing not only with the tactile aspects of the processes but also with religion, ceremony, song, image-creation, and other practices allied to the food world. 

Included are explicit descriptions of baking, smoking, boiling, grilling, and other techniques. Among the recipes are instructions for preparing and preserving many kinds of fish and animals of the fields, forests, and skies such as moose, beaver, rabbits, porcupines, grouse, and a variety of birds. Plants are treated in detail often with accompanying illustrations and instructions on where and when they might be found. In order to help preserve the words and language of the Gitksan people, the writers have included a list of terms and their pronunciations, as well.

Simultaneously published by Douglas & McIntyre in Canada and by the University of Washington Press in the US in 1980 in a handsome 9” x 9” format, the book is heavily illustrated with archival and contemporary black and white photographs and line drawings. Our copy is a Fine first edition hardcover with dust jacket. Fascinating reading and certainly of special interest to those students of North American Indigenous foodways. One of the very few full-scale treatments of gastronomy written by Natives.

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