A Familiar Wilderness: Northwest Coast Salmon Fishing (John G. Shedd Oceanarium Special Exhibition Video)

A Familiar Wilderness, a documentary commissioned for the opening of the Shedd Aquarium's Oceanarium, documents an aboriginal fisherman, Roy Cranmer, fighting to preserve the 'Namgis band's historic fishing grounds and land of origin while protecting the vibrant ecosystems and salmon populations that have sustained the Pacific Northwest Coast region for centuries. Also known by the anglicized name Nimpkish, the 'Namgis are part of the Kwakwaka'wakw (initially named the Kwakiut'l by Franz Boas) First Nation and have their homeland in what is now British Columbia, on the northern end of Vancouver Island. Hoffman has maintained a long relationship with the ‘Namgis band, having been adopted into the Cranmer family at the Cranmer potlatch in November 2017. This video was a collaborative effort with the First Nation people of Alert Bay, B.C., and continues to be shown there at the U'mista Cultural Centre.

0:08Copy video clip URL Video begins with scenic footage showing a body of water backed by rolling hills. Roy Cranmer, a member of the Nimpkish band and commercial fisherman, talks about the importance of fish and sea in the lives of coastal people. Over a shot of a harbor, Cranmer talks about the changes in the fishing landscape of the village where he lives.

1:05Copy video clip URL Cranmer introduces his crew: his daughter, Barbara Cranmer, Stephen Cook, Arthur Hunt, and his nephew Daniel. Cranmer takes his son on the boat, seating the young boy on his lap as he steers, in the hopes that his son will one day be a fisherman as well.

1:39Copy video clip URL Cranmer talks about recent depletions of fish off the coast, and the strain it puts on him as a fisherman. 

2:04Copy video clip URL Over the radio, a fishery patrol worker announces that Area Twelve is open to commercial salmon fishing. “I guess basically what’s happened is our fishing time has been cut next to nothing,” says Cranmer. “Last year, it was eight days. This year, it’s five days, and probably next year it’ll come down to hours.”

2:36Copy video clip URL “Native people don’t have any special rights at this point in time, as far as commercial fishing is concerned,” says Cranmer. Footage of Cranmer’s crew catching and bringing in fish plays as Cranmer provides a walkthrough of the commercial fishing process.

4:05Copy video clip URL Cranmer introduces the Nimpkish River, speaking to its traditional role in the Nimpkish peoples’ lives and his own life. Cranmer explains how commercial logging has changed the landscape and the salmon stocks within it. 

4:40Copy video clip URL In wake of the crisis, Cranmer says, fishermen began pressuring local fisheries to start a salmon enhancement program, explaining how such a program works.

5:18Copy video clip URL On the question of environmental concerns, Cranmer says, “The native people are concerned, and they have always been concerned. It’s just kind of encouraging to see that other people are now starting to get concerned about what’s happening with the environment. If the fish are gone, we’re gone.”

5:47Copy video clip URL Credits.



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