‘Shadow of the Salmon’ brightens Suquamish

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SUQUAMISH — As residents and visitors meandered their way into Chief Kitsap Hall at the Clearwater Casino Resort, excited discussion and greetings trailed behind them. Monday evening held sandwiches, candy and a special movie premiere for North Kitsap area, a film that will go on to educate not only students, but anyone interested in Coastal Salish traditions.

“Shadow of the Salmon” carried a multitude of messages, including urging viewers to take care of the environment so salmon can flourish, and not to shy away from their culture or past but embrace it. More than 50 residents arrived at the resort to absorb that message during the 44-minute movie and celebrate the film’s premiere.

“This thing was three and a half years in the making,” said script writer and producer Steve Robinson. “I was shy about it because it could mean a lot of things to a lot of people… These people said go ahead, and I wanted to do the movie as a formal educational tool. This film will be passed out to middle schools, it is a middle school film… The most important thing is it is going into the middle schools.”

“Shadow of the Salmon” follows 15-year-old Cody, who is traveling from Pine Ridge, S.D. to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle at the Lummi Tribal Reservation, near Bellingham. The film covers not only Cody discovering his Coastal Salish roots, as well as discussing his Lakota Sioux background, but also his exploring the different cultural traditions and why protecting the environment is key to preserving it for the future. The film includes well-known traditions such as the Tribal Journeys, drumming, dancing, singing, paddling and all customs accompanying those cultural activities. The Clearwater Casino was able to provide the venue for the first public showing of the film, something that was supposed to take place at the Smithsonian Museum, Robinson said.

“Before I talk about ‘Shadow of the Salmon,’ I want to thank the Suquamish Tribe for bringing us over here,” said Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr., who also was involved with production and played an elder in the film. “We’re always invited here, welcome here. It’s so beautiful here… That goes back kind of what we do with ‘Shadow of the Salmon,’ this is the education of our children. This film is going to be something like that, an education.”

Robinson said the film could reach as far as being shown in select theaters throughout the United States. Following the Suquamish premiere, the movie will be sent out to schools in the Pacific Northwest, and could gain momentum as teachers use it to help students recognize other cultures, or their own. He also said a sequel to “Shadow of the Salmon” is in the works, following Cody through high school and raising the movie to that grade level.

“People might recognize a few faces, and this film also has a great message,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman. “As you know, salmon are very important to us here… In shaping the culture, teaching us, part of our culture. There’s a lot to be learned about salmon, improving fish passages and culverts.”

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