________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002

cover Red Run.

Murray Jurak (Director). Jerry Krepakevich (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
25 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9101 018.

Subject Headings:
Indians of North America-British Columbia-Fishing
Salmon Fishing-British Columbia-Fraser River
Fraser River (B.C.)

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Deborah L. Begoray.

** /4


We suffered and survived with the salmon. They are coming alive again. We are here to stay. (Fred, fisher and member of the Siska people)

Each year salmon battle up the Fraser River in a dramatic "red run" to reach their spawning grounds. The aboriginal river people wait for them with dip and gill net, standing in spots inherited for generations. This video, directed by a member of the Lower Nicola Band, captures the culture which surrounds salmon fishing by interviewing the woman chief and two men with their young sons as they fish the river.

     Only native people are allowed to use nets on the Upper Fraser River to catch salmon. Quantities are restricted. They may capture only enough to feed their families. As the film makes clear, however, the salmon are much more than a food source. Director Murray Jurak demonstrates the intricate intertwining of the Siska people with the salmon by documenting the modern realities of fishing on the river. He also provides brief glimpses into the distant past when the salmon were more abundant and into the more recent past when they seemed destined for extinction.

     The modern reality is presented by contrasting the fishers poised close to the swirling waters with simple nets and the intrusion of the mainstream culture through trains, boats, and helicopters. The fishers cross the river on train bridges, sometimes running to beat the trains. When they reach their traditional fishing spots, the fishers concentrate on the river while the Department of Fisheries monitors their activities with boats and helicopters. There is danger from nature, as dip netting especially requires close proximity to the water on slippery rocks (the woman tells the story of losing her brother), and danger from the machines (the film shows a startled fisher, for example, responding to the loud speaker hail from a passing government boat). Overall, the distant and continuing culture of the river people is told by the fishers in stories about fathers and grandparents. On the river, children learn by watching and not by asking questions: fishers who don't use safety lines can be dragged under by the weight of salmon in their nets; offerings are made to ancestors; and fishing can continue by night when small fires mark the presence of other fishers along the river.

     There is a brief interlude, presented in black and white, of the more recent historic crisis on the Fraser when the salmon were blocked from moving upstream. Construction work at Hell's Gate caused a slide. The salmon backed up for miles downstream. The river people tried to save the salmon by carrying them one by one around the slide. After two days, when it became apparent that they were not making any discernible difference, they built a wooden chute around the slide. Despite the fact that the salmon poured through the narrow bypass and were able to continue upstream, the majority of the run perished.

     Although Red Run has a worthwhile topic, it will lack sufficient interest for many viewers. Most of the film is paced very slowly, perhaps in keeping with a traditional way of life, but it lacks production values featured in many modern documentaries. The Hell's Gate story is the most dramatic section, featuring contrasts of more abstract shots and fast cutting, but it is very brief.

     In conclusion, Red Run is a valuable resource for viewers who have access to other materials on fishing, native rights, management of natural resources but need to broaden their perspective. For Canadians familiar with the many controversies surrounding the preservation of fish stocks on the west and east coasts (especially the much maligned use of gill nets on the rivers), Red Run will provide a valuable contribution to their knowledge by adding the voices of aboriginal people who fish as a way of life.

Recommended with reservations.

Deborah L. Begoray is an associate professor of language arts in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria. She is currently researching the development of multiple literacies through varying sign systems.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364