Anna and Paul Chukan were raised on the salmon that migrated to the Naknek and Kvichak River systems. Anna was brought to Naknek from Levelock to marry my Great Grandpa, Paul, after the two of them survived the Great Flu that swept through Bristol Bay. From their line came my Grandmother Anisha and my mother. Mine and my sisters’ early summers were spent in the warmth of our Great Grandparents house being baby-sat by my Umma while our parents fished to provide for us. When we were old enough, we joined our Mom on the beach.
Our Umma and Granpappy shared the bounty of the Naknek River at their table daily. It was given in the form of smoked fish during at least one of three tea times and salmon was cooked into at least one of three meals each day. Salmon assumed many forms that were wonderful to eat. Sometimes dried with seal oil, sometimes dried then boiled, baked, pickled, canned, half-smoked, made into soup and the list goes on. People would show up and there was always another plate or bowl, and another seat. Lively stories would be shared around the table that are still part of our family oral history.
Without the fish, we would not have these memories.