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"To fish for themselves": A study of accommodation and resistance in the Stó:lō Fishery

"To fish for themselves": A study of accommodation and resistance in the Stó:lō Fishery


Department of Anthropology, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, CANADA.


Fisheries regulations, implemented in the 1880s, banned the sale of Indian 'food fish' and resulted in the creation of the categories of "food fishing" and "commercial fishing." While simultaneously accepting and rejecting that place in the margins of this fractured fishery, Stó:lō people have consistently maintained that their Aboriginal right to fish cannot be cast in these false categories that separate the economic and social components of their way of life.

Stó:lō fishers have been fighting for their Aboriginal right to fish since the their first encounters with the Xwelitem. This thesis addresses that struggle within a context of accommodation and resistance. In this historically situated ethnography, I offer an examination of a problem, not a people. By selecting three distinct responses to fisheries regulation on the part of peoples identifying themselves as Stó:lō, I reveal a link between the histories of the individual Stó:lō communities and their specific responses to regulation, demonstrating that connected to those histories are as many different Stó:lō fisheries as there are species of salmon.

The responses examined in this thesis are, in the words of the Stó:lō themselves, rooted in tradition; tradition having become the short answer to questions regarding the Stó:lō and their Aboriginal right to fish. As a part of my examination, I seek to uncover the long answer; more specifically how tradition has come to support these separate and distinct responses to over a century of interference into their way of life.