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Impearls: HIC 2.08: Fishing privileges

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Fishing privileges   by A. L. Kroeber

If several men jointly owned a fishing place, which seems to have been the case with nearly all the most prolific eddies, they used it in rotation for one or more days according to their share, relieving each other about the middle of the afternoon for 24-hour periods.  Thus a famous Karok spot called Ishkeishahachip, formerly on the north side of the river at the foot of the Ashanamkarak fall, but subsequently obliterated or spoiled by the river, belonged for one day to an Ashanamkarak man; for one to a man from Ishipishi, a mile above; for one to the head man of the village opposite Orleans, a dozen miles downstream; and for two days to the rich man of the village at Red Cap Creek, still farther below.  A successful fisherman usually gave liberally of his catch to all comers, so that it is no wonder that the Yurok have a fondness for stopping to chat with a fisherman whom they are passing.  If a man allowed another to fish at his place, he received the bulk of the catch.  If only one salmon was taken, the “tenant” kept merely the tail end.

A fishing place near Wahs[e]kw was originally owned by two Weitspus men who were not kinsmen, or at any rate not closely related.  One of them dying, his share passed to his son, who sold it to a Wahsekw man for $5 in American money.  The new part owner also possessed a place at which he was entitled to put up a platform a short distance below.

It was forbidden to establish a new fishing place or to fish below a recognized one.  This provision guaranteed the maintenance of the value of those in existence, and must have very closely restricted the total number to those established by tradition and inheritance.

If one man used another's fishing place, even without explicit permission of the owner, and fell and slipped there and cut his leg or was bruised, he would at once lay claim to the fishing place as damages.  People would say to the owner:  “It was your place and he was hurt; you should pay him.”  Perhaps a compromise would be effected on the basis of the plaintiff receiving a half interest in the privilege of the spot.



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