Whitefish and Cisco General
The Coeur d’Alene caught whitefish in Saint Joe River late October/early November . The Ojibwa fished both summer and winter . The Huron harvested from early November to the beginning of December [36, 37] and their fishing expeditions occurred in October on the northern part of Lake Huron [38, 39]. For the James Bay Cree of Fort George, Eastmain and Paint Hills, fishing occurred from Late July to early September , for the James Bay Cree at the Capsaouis River estuary it was spring , and for the Vunta Kutchin (Gwich’in)  and Kutenai (Kootenai) , it was autumn. The Saulteaux, Muscago and Sekani by the Fraser River consumed whitefish during summer .
A variety of fishing techniques were used to catch whitefish. The Chilcotin used weirs with “basketry traps” set up in shallow waters , the Tutchone used a “leister”, or a weir and trap system , and the Kutchin used hooks made from bone with no bait, as well as a number of “post” and “withe” weirs and “basket-trap” systems . The Tanana fished in June, and used weir-trap systems and large nets; the fabrication and use of weirs was considered a communal production . During winter the Kuyokon set “basket” or “keyhole” traps as well as nets under the ice; during spring some families set up traps in river offshoots; during autumn, men set traps in streams . The Ingalik used weir-trap systems under the ice during the winter, and obtained the fish using a long collecting tool . From September to December, they set nets in reverse currents near the shore of streams, in June a whitefish trap was set at the most important location in the central stream. During July and August, in Shageluk, women put “gill-nets” into the water. A lance was also used. The Kolchan followed whitefish downstream during fall, and used nets and weirs to catch them . The Ahtna used “funnel” traps, a fishing line and hook, and during winter, they cut holes in the ice and caught the fish using spears . Fishing methods for the Lillooet included “set-lines” made from hemp with baited hooks attached, a three-pronged spear, traps, and torches at night to entice the fish . The Kootenai caught fish during spring until May, and used “basket traps” and weirs made from wicker . They also caught whitefish during fall and winter through the ice . The Shuswap used weir-trap systems, or spears and “gaffs” , and the Kalispel set weirs made from sticks in faster bodies of water . The Rupert House Cree and Northern Ojibwa (Anishinabek) fished during fall, with the former using nets and the latter using weirs . The Central Coast Salish used “trawl” nets , whereas the Huron used large fishing nets that were set up after dusk and brought back in at dawn [38, 39]. They fished from early November to the beginning of December [36, 37] and in October on the northern part of Lake Huron [38, 39]. Subarctic Indigenous Peoples fished during autumn using traps, “gill” nets and “dip” nets , whereas the Attawapiskat fished from September through winter . They used nets that were handled mostly by women, with the exception of men sometimes helping to paddle and hold the canoe while women retrieved the fish . Floats for the nets were made from spruce wood, and most of the fish were consumed by the family that caught them. The Waswanipi  and the Chalkyitsik Kutchin of Alaska  also used nets, with the former fishing during October and November  and the latter fishing in September, late winter, and early spring . The Dease River Kaska used traps, spears, nets and “angles”, whereas the Upper Liard Kaska used weirs . The Peel River Kutchin fished in June and November through the winter, using nets and “basket” traps . The Iroquois, excluding the Mohawk and Andaste territories, took part in autumn fishing, using nets, weirs and spears . The Chipewyan used canoes, spears, weirs, “gill” nets, and hooks to catch whitefish, whereas the Ingalik used “basket” traps made from spruce, and fished during the spring, summer and winter . The Southern Okanagan used torches and spears for night fishing . Yukon Indigenous Peoples fished during the summer and winter, first trapping, then spearing the whitefish . The Dogrib fished from March to December, using “gill” nets, earlier made from willow bark, and later on from a more industrial material, with floats and weights attached . The Dease River Kaska speared, netted, trapped and “angled” whitefish . The Tagish fished for whitefish at Little Atlin Lake in both summer and winter, using funnel traps, “gill” nets with floats and sinkers made of stone, lead or sandbags . The Tlingit fished at the Nisutlin River using “funnel-basket” traps made from spruce roots and willow, as well as “box” traps. Squanga River was fished at in October, and Squanga Lake in November. Whitefish were gaffed and clubbed at a small lake near the beginning of Teslin Lake, with hooks made from iron files. In later times, most fish were caught at Teslin Lake; using nets made from sinew during October; during winter “gill” nets and spears with a handle made from birch and a cord made form boiled spruce wood were used. Inuit caught whitefish during winter, in earlier times by “peephole fishing”, where a series of holes was cut into the ice and little spruce trees shoved down to the bottom so that the way was blocked for the fish, except for one small opening . A “peephole” was cut so the hunter could watch for the fish. When the hunter saw a school of fish heading towards the small opening made by the spruce trees, he lowered the fish trap. In later times in the “central area”, ice fishing was performed using a “jig” made from an un-barbed hook that sat underneath a weight made from bone, and fish skin used as bait. For the Eyak, fishing occurred during spring and summer, and a fishing hook and line were used . The Nuiqsut (Inupiat) caught a smaller whitefish during June and July near the coast, in July upriver, in August at “Woods’ camp” closer to the ocean, and in September a net was used in the rivers . The Hare (Sahtu) caught whitefish in the Mackenzie River from July through September, using “gill” nets . The Southern Okanagan caught whitefish during the winter using night torches made from pine or cedar, as well as a “leister”, with barbs made from bear bone . The Han fished at Moosehide using nets , and the Mainland Southwest Yupik used “gill” nets  and caught them in autumn in local bodies of water, including the Kuskokwim River . The Bering Strait Yupik caught the fish in rivers through the ice during winter . Indigenous Peoples caught whitefish in St. Mary’s River, Sault Ste. Marie; northern Algonquians caught them using traps in October and November . The Chipewyan partook in commercial and domestic fishing .
For preparing the fish, the Huron cut whitefish open, removed the guts, and laid the flesh out on drying racks [38, 39]. If conditions were not good for drying, the fish were smoked then used to make relish for soup, or consumed during feasts. The largest, fattest whitefish were boiled to extract the oil, which was bottled. Huron were also reported to dry whitefish to store for winter consumption [36, 37]. The Attawapiskat also dried the fish . The Chalkyitsik Kutchin roasted whitefish over a fire, either whole on hot coals, or split and skewered . Dried fish was cut open along the spine, and hung on a rack. The Peel River Kutchin also dried whitefish . The Dogrib steamed, baked, fried and boiled pieces of whitefish, with the boiling water often consumed . Whitefish can be stored frozen, or dried either with the head attached or taken off, then stored in boxes made from cardboard, wood, or flour sacks. Flour was made from the back piece of the fish (“etsl” or “pounded fish”), and “fish pemmican” was made by mixing this flour with fat. Fish preparation and preservation was often done by women. The Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene of Colville Lake and Fort Good Hope primarily cooked and smoked whitefish meat, in addition to consuming its eggs, head and esophagus . The Chandalar Kutchin consumed whitefish fresh, or cut the backbone and head off, and dried the remaining meat for storage, and using the fish heads to make a soup . They also prepared “fish pemmican”. The Upper Tanana consumed whitefish fresh and dried, boiling both forms and drinking the boiling water . In earlier times, dried fish was stored in “underground caches”, but later on they were only stored in “aerial caches”. The Chipewyan smoked or dried surplus whitefish, or stored it in the village freezer . The Dene/Metis also smoked and dried their whitefish , while the Hare (Sahtu) consumed frozen whitefish roe, considering it to be “rich and sweet”, thus referring to it as “bush ice cream” . Whitefish intestines were also considered as a delicacy. After all winter stores had been consumed, women would dry whitefish over the stove to be eaten. The Northern Manitoba Cree preserved this fish by freezing . The Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene/Metis of Good Hope and Colville Lake, Northwest Territories consumed it raw or cooked, smoked and baked . The Inupiat of Bethel, Aniaki, Nulato, Kotzebue, Shunnuk villages preserved by smoking or drying . Inuit consumed whitefish raw when frozen . First Nations of Ontario preparation techniques included cutting off the back bone and drying the flesh over a smoky fire . “Fish pemmican” was also prepared using a spoon made from wood to crush the fish into a powder and adding berries. This mixture was kept in a box made from birchbark. The Beothuk considered whitefish to be an emergency food , whereas the Han considered it a welcome change from salmon . The Taku River people obtained dried whitefish from the Tagish. Whitefish tails were used by the Tlingit as a lure on fish hooks .
Beliefs and taboos
Regarding ritual aspects of whitefish harvest, a Huron “fish preacher” summoned to the fish every night to provide the tribe with food [38, 39]. Sometimes they burned tobacco or tossed it into the water while saying a prayer. A ritual was reported where two girls were married to a net to ensure a bountiful amount of fish caught. Among the Dogrib, fish skin and bone was not burned, because it was considered to displease the fish and make them leave the area . The Eyak of the Copper River Delta, Alaska considered fresh whitefish to be strictly prohibited among pregnant women .
Cisco of unspecified species were reported to have been eaten by the Chipewyan, Tagish, Yukon First Nations, Huron, East Main Cree, Eastern James Bay Cree, Sahtu, Dene/Metis and Inuvialuit of Aklavik [9, 17, 36, 62, 72, 81, 82, 89, 110, 111]. The Huron caught cisco using seine nets which were set in the evening and drawn at daybreak . The Sahtu are reported to eat cisco flesh, including the head [82, 111]. The Dene/Metis were reported to eat the freshly prepared flesh and also preserved it by smoking and drying .
Inconnu, also known as connie or sheefish, were reported to have been consumed by the Kutchin (Gwich’in) (including the Peel River Kutchin, Vunta Kutchin and Chalkyitsik Kutchin), Champagne and Aishihik, Tlingit, Han, Dene of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake, Moose-Deer Island House People (Dene), Hare (Sahtu), Dene/Metis, Inuvialuit of Aklavik and Kugaluk, Inupiat, Yupik, Koyukon, Indigenous Peoples of Wood Buffalo National Park, Great Slave Lake, Slave River, Fort Smith, Anderson River and Shingle Point [17, 22, 23, 56-58, 62, 65, 69, 71, 73, 74, 81, 82, 85, 86, 89, 97, 100, 106, 107, 112-115].
Inconnu were mainly caught in summer and winter, though the Peel River Kutchin caught them mainly in the spring and fall [57, 62, 74, 116]. They typically caught them with traps and gill nets [17, 22, 57, 62, 74]. The Hare, Teslin band of the Inland Tlingit, and Kutchin including the Peel River Kutchin used nets [17, 22, 57, 74]. The Teslin band of the inland Tlingit caught them in the Teslin lake using gill nets made of moderately small mesh . The Hare caught them in the Mackenzie River also using small-meshed gill nets, of 3 to 3.5-inches . They also went to the Ramparts above Fort Good Hope to catch them . In spring and fall, the Peel River Kutchin caught them in the Peel River with nets, and placed basket traps in eddies. They sometimes used bone hooks in fall, and caught smaller groups of fish that stayed in the lakes during winter by placing nets under the ice . The Yukon Indigenous Peoples caught them in the Peel and Liard rivers, as well as many Yukon lakes using cylindrical basket traps with holes at each end, placing them in enclosures made of brush and posts, in eddies. The fish swam upstream into the enclosures through the holes in the trap and were forced back into the trap mouth, which faced upstream. The downstream hole of the trap was raised on a ledge where the inconnu were consequently speared .
Inconnu were abundant in the Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake, and up the Slave Lake including the Grand Rapids at Fort Smith. Indigenous Peoples in those regions including those of the Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake, Slave River, Fort Smith, Anderson River, Shingle Point and Fort McPherson caught them mainly in summer but also in fall and early winter. In summer, they caught many of them in the brackish water at Shingle Point in the Mackenzie Bay using gill nets; at this time, inconnu were said to be soft and floppy. In fall and early winter, they caught them at the east mainland region of Richard Island through the ice using barbless hooks; the inconnu caught at this time were said to be firm and fat . The Hare set up camps around the Mackenzie River, as that was the only one in their locale that had inconnu. They caught them mostly between July and September using mesh gill nets, usually of a 3 or 3.5 inch mesh size or a 4 or 4.5 inch mesh size, floats, marker float, and stones for weights and a huge stone anchor. They placed these nets in river eddies in swirling water so that when the inconnu got caught in the swirl, they would get caught in the net. The fishermen checked these nets net twice a day, early in the morning and in the evening, using hunting canoes or motor boats and took the catch to camp where the women prepared the fish for drying . The Han caught them through ice holes and the Moose-Deer Island House People caught them at the Taltson river during the spawning run [73, 97]. The Nuvorugmiut of Kugaluk likely caught them using a hook made from antler with a very long shank which was triangular in shape and had an oblong barb hole .
Inupiat of Northwest Alaska caught inconnu in the rivers of north Alaska jigging them with hooks, and usually sinker lures made from mammoth tooth and shaped into a small fish-like form. In the sinker lure were holes drilled for the line. The hook was a four-barbed baited hook. The Koyukon caught it in October using keyhole or basket traps, and in nets placed under river ice in later times [23, 107, 115].
The Peel River Kutchin considered inconnu a delicacy, and ate the flesh broiled, roasted, or boiled. They also consumed the dried roe . The Hare dried the flesh in the smoke house for winter consumption . Inuit were said to find inconnu delicious, while cultures of the Great Slave Lake were said to find them “detestable” and only good enough to feed dogs or to extract oil for lamps . The Hare cut them open and placed them on a rack in the sun to dry for three days, after which they placed several on a pole in the smoke house or smoke tent for three or four days . The Chalkyitsik Kutchin relished inconnu . The Sahtu (Hareskin) Dene of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake ate the flesh raw, baked, smoke-dried and smoke-baked, and ate the head, eggs and guts. A few ate the esophagus [71, 85].
Beliefs and taboos
Inconnu was commonly fished by the Moose-Deer Island House People at the Taltson River since the late 50s or early 60s. One ethnographer reported a Métis informant with the impression that the decline in fish was because of commercial fishing, and possibly water pollution in the area .
Cultures reported to have consumed lake whitefish, also known as crookedback or humpbacked whitefish, include the Kutchin (Gwich’in) of Peel River and Crow River , Inupiat of Northwest Alaska , Hare (Sahtu), Dene of Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, [74, 85], Tagish, Inland Tlingit (Teslin) , Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie Delta , Champagne and Aishihik, and Teslin , Inuit of Ungava Bay, Belcher Island and Labrador [117-119], Micmac (Mi’kmaq) of Richibucto , Cree (Omushkego, James Bay, Fort George and Eastmain) [43, 46, 120-122]. The Nuvorugmiut also likely consumed this fish, as evidenced by remains found at the Kugaluk archeological site .
Lake whitefish that were available to the Peel River Kutchin migrated up Peel River in June and down river under the ice in November . They were caught using nets when migrating up and down river, but basket traps were used only when migrating up river. This type of fish did not bite hooks. The Inupiat of Northwest Alaska used nets with a small lattice network, made from sinew or baleen fibre, at the beginning of streams and lake outlets, set perpendicular to the shore . Often the fish were so plentiful that every lattice in the net had a fish in it. At times a number of nets were tied together to increase their length. In the Baillie Islands, east of Mackenzie River delta, baleen nets were used until around 1890.
The Peel River Kutchin did not consume many lake whitefish due to low numbers in the Peel River; there was a much higher quantity in the Mackenzie River . The Dene of Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, Sahtu (Hareskin) consumed this fish either raw or baked . The Yukon Flats Kutchin caught some lake whitefish in rivers .
The Tagish fished for lake whitefish during their upstream run in November and their downstream run in December. Near the beginning of November, when the moon was full, Tagish drifted down the river in boats with a gill net in the water, using torches from faggots tied to long poles. This method was normally very profitable. In late November, Tagish constructed a weir made from forest vegetation, located between the shore and a small island. This weir was put in at the exact time that the water was freezing over, so that weir would not be swept away by the water. The fish that swam downstream migrated to a hole left in the barrier, and fishermen then used spears to catch them. Large lake whitefish were available in Beaver Lake, near Deep Bay. People who hunted in this area stopped in November to fish, catching a great number using nets. They spent a number of weeks preparing and drying the fish.
The Teslin caught lake whitefish in Teslin Lake during summer and winter. The Hare (Sahtu) caught lake whitefish from July through September in the Mackenzie River, and occasionally as far as the rapid located at the beginning of the Ramparts . Among Indigenous Peoples of the far North, whitefish was consumed in greater amounts when game animals dropped in numbers . Many cultures relied on these runs, and if they failed, many were subjected to possible starvation. The fish were abundant in almost every stream and lake, and were preferred by some who performed heavy labour. Lake whitefish was considered one of the most important fish in the area for the Cree of Fort George and Eastmain , as well as the Ungava Bay Inuit .
Girard et al. (1996) present data on mercury levels in lake whitefish caught by James Bay Cree in hydroelectric reservoirs and inland lakes .
The Hare (Sahtu) used gill nets with holes 4 to 4.5 inches wide to catch lake whitefish .
The Dene of Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, Sahtu (Hareskin) consumed lake whitefish raw, baked, smoked, and dried . They consumed fish eggs raw or baked, and baked the fish head. Indigenous Peoples of the far North prepared whitefish by drying and boiling it, or by cleaning the fish, scraping the scales off, cutting the fish into small portions, and then boiling them .
Lake herring, also referred to as cisco or tullibee, were reported to be consumed by the Omushkego Cree of Ontario, Cree of James Bay and Cree of Fort George and Eastmain and the Tagish [17, 43, 46, 120]. Lake herring were also consumed by Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie Delta  and other regions , as well as the First Nations of Ontario .
Western Arctic Coast Inuit were reported to have eaten lake herring, their “most common food fish”, catching them along the coast and in larger rivers in summer and early spring. In early spring the fish were caught in ice cracks, ice holes in the sea, or from the edge of ice drifts near shore using hooks. In summer they were caught with gill nets .
The Cree of Fort George and Eastmain caught lake herring mostly in fall, but also in spring and summer, using two and a half inch mesh gill nets to selectively catch them . The Tagish caught them in spring and fall; those caught in spring were large, therefore gill nets were used. In fall, the fish were smaller in the Tagish region and children would catch them, by dangling multiple fishhooks off a footbridge overlooking the Nares River and carry them home for supper . The Cree of James Bay ate the liver and eggs in addition to the flesh .
Cultures reported to have consumed round whitefish include the Champagne and Aishihik, Vunta Gwich’in and Teslin Tlingit , Tagish and Inland Tlingit (Teslin) , James Bay Cree , Cree of Fort George and Eastmain , Yupik of Southwest Alaska .
Round whitefish was available to the Tagish at the end of December, in three small lakes draining from Racine Lake between Log Cabin and Taku Arm in British Columbia . It was available to the Yupik of Southwest Alaska in lakes and ponds of the inland tundra area, as well as the Kuskokwim River .
If creeks between lakes had not yet frozen over, the Tagish would put a net across and wade down the creek, trying to catch the fish with large poles . This was a difficult and extremely cold process, but would catch 200 to 300 pounds of fish.
Among the Tagish, some round whitefish was frozen and used as dog food, and the rest was cleaned and dried, to be stored in caches downstream of the creek . The James Bay Cree considered the flesh, liver and eggs of round whitefish to be a favourite traditional food .
Arctic cisco were reported to have been consumed by the Nuiqsut, and Sahtu of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake [85, 109]. Inuvialuit of Mackenzie Delta likely also consumed Arctic cisco, as evidenced by faunal remains found at a Mackenzie Delta archaeological site .
Arctic cisco were mainly caught in September using five-inch mesh nets . The Sahtu of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake ate the flesh, eggs and esophagus. They baked the flesh for immediate use, and smoked and dried the flesh, presumably for later use [71, 85].
Least cisco were reported to have been eaten by Yukon First Nations (including Teslin Tlingit) and Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories [65, 89, 112, 123].
Cultures reported to have consumed broad whitefish include Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories [89, 112], Champagne and Aishihik, Vunta Gwich’in and Teslin .
The Mid-Columbia Indians consumed mountain whitefish . They were one of the few fish available during winter and were caught through the river ice using a hook. Mountain whitefish was available to the Central Coast Salish .
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