On June 16, we had the chance to visit the new Alaska State Museum, where our initial assignment was to find an artifact that spoke to us. As I wandered about looking at the extraordinary art and objects from Alaska’s past, I was instantly drawn to this traditional herring rake, used to collect roe (eggs) from female herring that had spawned on cedar tree branches or kelp. Why the herring rake? First of all, I had never heard of it before. Also, I grew up commercial seining with my grandfather, as I shared with the class. In addition to salmon, each spring my grandfather participated as one of 54 permit holders in the Sitka Sound Herring Sac Roe fishery. The first time I went along was when I was 13, and I rarely missed a year until I was 32. He passed away three years after my final time as a member of his crew. As such, Sitka, Alaska will always have a special place in my heart because of those many years with my grandfather in that fishery. This herring rake makes me want to investigate further the traditional fishing methods of the Tlingit, particularly for herring. I’d love to get a copy of the out-of-print book, Indian Fishing, by Hillary Stewart.
Discovering this artifact also directly led to my lesson plan on the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which happened in March 1989, when I was herring fishing in Sitka! I remember all of us following it on the news. When I was thinking of a possible lesson plan for Southcentral, my initial thought was researching the herring fishery in Prince William Sound that had been disrupted because of the spill.