Kaxdegoowu Héen Sháali (Montana Creek Fish Trap)

Observe a Photograph

What do you see?

Observe the image above for 1-2 minutes while thinking about what you see.

What do you see? Write down what you see in the image.

What do you think about the things you see? Does it remind you of something? What do you think it is?

What do you wonder about? Write down some questions you have about this image/object. 

Read on to learn more:

Could it be a trap?

If you guessed it is a trap, you are correct! The photographs here are of an excavation of a funnel trap that was used approximately 700 years ago to capture fish as they swam up a creek we now call, Montana Creek. Kaxdegoowu Héen Sháali is the Tlingit word for Montana Creek Fish Trap. The Tlingit are the original people of the city now called Juneau, Alaska.

Here is some information about traditional Tlingit Fishing.

  • In 1786 when La Pérouse visited Lituya Bay, near Yakutat, he and his crew observed this type of cylindrical basket traps being used.  He noted: “In this it will be seen, that the salmon, coming up the river, are stopped by the stakes; unable to leap over them, they turn back towards the sea; in the angles of the dike are placed very narrow wicker baskets, closed at one end, into which they enter, and being unable to turn in the basket, they are thus caught.” (The Tlingit Indians by George Thornton Emmons, page 106)
  • Salmon are a staple food of the Tlingit. Fishing creeks and bays were owned by clans which gave them exclusive fishing rights to that area.
  • There are many fishing techniques including gaff, spears, hook and line, and various types of traps.
  • The Tlingit word for fish trap is sháal.

Write down something new you learned.

1913 Photograph of Summer Fish Camp in Alaska