New Salmon Ceremony exhibit aims to share the history with residents, visitors

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The Humboldt County Vistors Bureau is sharing the long-held tradition of the salmon ceremony.

The Salmon Ceremony Oral Histories exhibit is a new interactive exhibit, allowing guests to dive into the origins and history of the salmon ceremony.

In conjunction with the Bear River Band, the Mattole Salmon Group, and the humboldt area peoples archive, the exhibit allows visitors to dive deep into the history of the salmon ceremony.

“It’s a renewal, it’s an appreciation of giving back, welcoming back its interconnectedness into relation with our salmon,” Bear River Rancheria Ceremonial Leader Maggie Wortman said.

The interactive exhibit brings together photos of recent gatherings, traditional clothing and audio of tribe members speaking about their ceremonial experiences.

“This is a part of what they’ve been doing for a long time. In terms of what the archives has provided and and has been bringing out with this exhibit is really the voices. It’s the voice of the Bear River people and its their voice that should say that story.” Humboldt Area Peoples Archive Executive Director Nicole Riggs said.

Sharing these stories with guests coming in is important to establish a connection.

“It builds our relationship and it further deepens our interconnectedness. This is the world that we live in now. And so understanding each other and building on that is huge,” Wortman said

The salmon ceremony had been a major part of the tribes’ livelihoods including the Wiyot, Whilkut, Mattole, and Bear River to name a few.

In 1958, that all came to an end in the Termination Era, a time of cultural genocide.

It has returned for a new generation to carry it on and get an experience that others might not have had.

“For me, as a child, I didn’t get to dance. You know with getting and doing away with tribes, we weren’t dancing. When I danced, it was in powwow when my grandad took me to powwows. And now, being a part of that is huge for me,. It’s a healing and progressive thing for us to get to do that,” Wortman said.