Rainbow/Steelhead Trout: Oncorhynchus mykiss
Once classified as Salmo gairdnerii and Salmo gairdneri gairdnerii respectively the classification has changed to that of other trout (Oncorhynchus) in the last few years. Steelhead are just the migratory form of rainbows, they go to sea before returning to rivers to spawn. These fish spawn in fresh water in both winter and spring, but unlike other species, they don’t die after spawning. Instead, Steelhead will return to the ocean repeating this process a few times. Their first year or two is spent in fresh water before going to sea. Not all venture to sea, and those spending their entire lives in freshwater are called Rainbow Trout. Ranging from Alaska to California, their appetites are large including herring and other small fishes. The bright colors of these fish come during spawning season, reflecting the colorful peoples whom welcomed these fish as a main food and spiritual source.
Although a popular figure in many Pacific Northwest coastal tribes (from Alaska to Washington state) the Raven is especially predominant in the tales of the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian. Raven to them is the original organizer, trickster and transformer to name a few. During the long winters secret societies within the tribes performed dances, which told complex tales using elaborate headdresses, which opened and closed. The Raven dancer was a favorite performer in many dances and still is in ceremonies today. The dancer and totems inside the rainbows tell the story of how Raven brought the sun to humankind.
Pacific Herring like the one pictured to the left grow up to 18 inches preying on a variety of crustaceans and small fishes but fall prey themselves to the Steelhead that find their way to sea (and many other larger fishes). I was overwhelmed by the urge to fill this one with our Northern Blue butterflies, after doing so I found out that old Haida legends name the butterfly as the Raven’s food finder.