Image of fish by Bill Helin


There are many foods that my Tsimshian ancestors and family members gathered through out every year, never thought I’d live to see the day that we weren’t fishing in our family, which is the same with most of my family and tribal people.

I wasn’t exposed to full time practices of the hunting and gathering as a child because my Tsimshian Father married my Norweigan Mother and settled in the town of Prince Rupert, We lived a few hours by boat away from where Dad was born, which was the village of Port Simpson, now Lax Kw’alaams.

Port Simpson was once called Fort Simpson back in the early 1800s when the first trading post was established on the northern coast.
It is now called Lax Kwalaams, place of wild roses.

I remember spending every summer and every weekend working on our commercial fish boats, preparing for all the different fishing seasons, like salmon, halibut and the herring.

I learned a lot about travelling the coastal waters of BC and we had wonderful times exploring and gathering foods for the winter and just feasting on the abundance of everything fresh from pristine coastal waters. We never thought of a shortage of anything but we knew about preservation and stocking up for the winter, mainly by freezing and jarring salmon, halibut and clams. A couple relatives smoked and dried just about everything, some of it I didn’t like, especially smoked black cod, herring and oolican.

I never paid much attention to what was left of the culture, there wasn’t much of it to be seen then except for a goat horn spoon and a long beak ashtray which both were very rustic and non traditional to our Tsimshian roots.

Frog canoe by Bill Helin

I remember salmon fishing while other kids had summer holidays. Sometimes I made really good money but that never really mattered to me, I would rather have been back home with my friends or drawing pictures.

In 1972 we moved south leaving the last of our native lifestyle behind, most of it anyways. It was a non impressionable lifestyle that was almost faded completely from our tribe.

Most of the northern family still fish and gather seaweed and shellfish. Since my Father died my older brother quit fishing too. I quit in 1979, by accident, and through my recovery time I was invited to attend a native art school in Hazelton, a small River side community 3 hours east of Prnce Rupert.

I remember salmon fishing in the summer and then herring fishing in February and long lining halibut in the month of May. Ive never been involved in any oolican harvesting or drying and smoking. It took me many years to acquire a taste for the grease, and was never a big fan of eating the little oily nutritious fish. Good way to be left alone after eating it.

The eulachon Thaleichthys pacificus is a small fish of the smelt family (Osmeridae). Eulachon
are found only in the Pacific Northwest, from California to the Pribiloff Islands.
Granny said-There were some years, they were so plentiful that you could just go down and hand-fish them off the side of the river bank. Just walk down and grab them and put them in your bucket…there’d be a four foot black streak going up the side of the bank
(Anfinn Siwallace, Nuxalk Nation cited in Moody 2008).

I never did the EULACHON runs, I don’t even remember my dad doing it. Our family usually bought or traded it with the Nass River fisherman of the Nisga Nation.
It was pretty strong compared to the grease we get from the Knight Inlet area. Sometimes it was blended with seal oil, which made it smell stronger and it didn’t last as long unless you froze it.

There used to be big eulachon runs up the Skeena River, but not for quite a number of years. For over 3 generations my Tsimshian ancestors built and lived in cedar longhouses for their summer fishing life. Moving back out to the coast again after the salmon and eulachon (oolican) run was finished.

In the month of February (Hobiyee), the people worked together for the ooilcan harvest and sea-lion hunts. In the oolican season there is the first catch and the second catch. The first catch is usually to test and determine if the oolicans are ready for harvest. If they are too small in size, the people wait for the second run, leaving the first run to spawn and thrive.

The village smoke-houses have to be prepared also. The rafters and the oolican sticks have to be washed and cleaned, which they always were after each smoking session. Then, wood for smoking or curing is collected for the smoke-houses. Usually the preference for smoke-house wood is birch wood or cottonwood. While the people in the villages are doing their work of smoking oolicans and sea-lion meat, there are people at Grease camps located at Fishery Bay. It is here that they prepare the Oolican grease.
The preparation of oolican grease is a very strenuous and industrious job that can take up to six weeks to be prepared right.
Very few oolican are harvested traditionally anymore, mainly Knight inlet and up the Nass River are the last located in BC.

1996), or a single species whose loss would impact
many others (Mills and Doak 1993). Examples incl
ude coral polyps that create an entire reef environment and sea otters (Enhydra lutris) that structure kelp forest communities (Estes
et al.1989). Eulachon are ecologically-important in th
at they deliver a large pulse of food and
nutrients in early spring when other food sources
are scarce or lacking, and may be critical to the
energetics of Steller’s sea lion
Eumetopias jubatus, (Sigler et al.2004). Willson and Halupka
(1995) consider anadromous smelts as a keystone species based on over forty predators that depend on them.
The arrival of eulachon in early spring when dried salmon and other food sources were low or exhausted made them critically important prior to European contact. Eulachon were called ‘starvation fish’ in Tsimshian, ‘salvation fish’ in Nisga’a and ‘Preservation’ fish in Nuxalk
I remember that we ate lots of dried, frozen and smoked fish and seaweed, cockles, clams, scallops and of course Dads favourite delicacy, the abalone, almost extinct in our northern waters because of piracy and disrespect to the future reproduction of the species.
An ecological keystone species is what really stands out as the most important staple of not only the northern West Coast Indians, but also every other living creature of the same territory.
Not much hope for the future of all our species in this threatened world, sadly. The controllers have no intention of wanting a certain amount of us to survive. The secret society of my Tsimshian ancestry has taught me a lot about what the controllers are doing and why they do it. Many will perish and get consumed by their worldly addictions and sensationalism of news, music and entertainment, while the most important things are vibrations that are non existent to them, the sheep and the goats.
Pray for unity and think for yourself, then your eyes will open.

Note:I wrote this a number of years ago, and have since seen the oolican fishery still declining, and continued recklessness by the government in the way it mishandles the fisheries, and everything else.

Tattoo Designing

Feathers of Friends and Family

I have been designing tattoos for over 30 years now and have decided that it’s time for a career change. Yes I have started a Tattooing Apprenticeship to learn all the fine details of permanent body art.

A two headed eagle I designed for a Maori Chief friend, applied by 82 year old Maori tattoo artist

I won’t be ready to hit the skin until August but until then we can discuss ideas and work on your Life Crest Story. What a creatively fun journey it shall be.

Butterfly Chilkat Story of Freedom

Text me for more info or to book some design time.


Tattoo Style Octopus


Finger Puppets have been used in the education system and in human development and therapy classes for many years now.

In 2018 I was approached by a company called Plush Toys located in Surrey B.C. about designing stuffed animals for the retail gift market.

I suggested designing finger puppets to go with my education books published by Strong Nations Publishers in Nanaimo B.C.

We now have a large collection of puppets that can be interacted with a canoe and a longhouse carry case.

All the collection have been well received at home and in the school class rooms across Canada and used for role playing, lesson teaching and complimenting the book collection that features the characters.

I will also be featuring them in my Story Journeys with my granddaughter Trinity on video download with a paid membership.

Drum Vibrations and Tattoo Design

It’s always good to have a backup job, maybe even a useful trade that helps you survive through a challenging economy or job loss, could even be because of and accident or extended illness like I had for over five years.

I love my art career and all the various creative outlets I have, but of course neither are among the necessary needs in life, like income security. Now I’ve chosen to learn the fine permanent art of tattooing, which has intrigued me for many years.

Young people it’s wise to have some kind of trade in life, even if you hate it.

Or how hard it is to comprehend a manual labour job.

Based upon our economic history, we are headed for another big crash. It’s already affected my art career three times in since I started my Native art career in 1982.

Now I’m focusing a lot into my cultural drumming and tattoo design. Drumming up a new clientele that are interested in living a better life and healing through drum vibes and body art.

Continue reading

Love Raven’s Memorial Bench

If you are interested in a personal memorial bench or just a Love Bench for your home entrance way send me a message and I will send you a quote.

I worked on a special red cedar project with Protection Island wood crafter Mat Colleret, Two Ravens memorial bench for our dear friend Roger.

Fully hand carved by myself with copper accents and beautiful bench crafting by Mat. Retail cost start at $7500.