The Church of Salmon

Posted on February 5, 2012


Generations on the Naknek by Bryce Butner


My mother is from the Naknek River district of Bristol Bay and I have spent every summer of my life there. At the age of ten I began participating in the commercial harvest of salmon with setnets. I was fortunate to know my great grandfather, Paul Chukan, who was still fishing when I entered the fishery. He was born not long after the commercial fishery began to be established in the Bristol Bay region. I revel in the knowledge that I am not the first to observe the rite of fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay. At the same time, it is not my intention to diminish or disrespect the formalized ritual of a church service, but feel that the repetition; year after year, tide after tide, and fish after fish mark a pattern of action that has been recognized since salmon came into existence. It causes me to remember my grandparents and great-grandparents through an experience that I know we have shared. This shared custom continues back through the ages to ancestors unknown and it is my desire for the fishery to continue so far into the future that my descendents will no longer remember or know my name.

This reflection first appeared in a newsletter distributed by the National Council of Churches in the Fall of 2010. To learn more about this important wild sockeye salmon fishery visit


Posted in: Fish, Salmon