The TFN Juniors spent a wonderful fall morning on October 15th with Alan Colley of Toronto Aboriginal Eco Tours as we explored Highland Creek at Colonel Danforth Park and experienced the salmon run together.
At the beginning of our gathering, Alan gathered us around a ‘Four Directions’ mat. Each of the squares of the grid contained objects depicting a different aspect of nature. The first square was about water, oxygen and carbon, elements on which we are completely dependent. We need oxygen to burn food, just the way a fire needs oxygen to burn wood. In the second square was sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and cedar. He explained that plants mean many things to us–gratefulness, prayer and sustenance. Cedar is a powerful medicine but must be used with care. In the third square were Bald Eagle talons, fox and coyote pelts, a turtle shell and a Pike skull. We learn true parenthood from watching the salmon battle their way up a river to make sure the next generation has a fighting chance at survival. The fourth square was for human beings – we who exercise choices how we live.
Heavy grey clouds moved in and a wind started to blow as we headed for the creek. The wind brought down a fabulous rain of red and golden Sugar Maple leaves.
We were able to hike both directions up the creek on the gravelly bottom near the banks. We found a female salmon waiting in the shallows below a waterfall. Alan told us these are females and they will not lay their eggs until there are several big males around to fight over the chance to fertilize them. He showed us a spot where a female had laid eggs, and then swished her tail over them every day to clean away debris.
The most exciting moment was when Alan caught a 15 lb female Pacific salmon with his fishing rod. He was able to show us the eggs, which were round and golden like pearls. He said that the Toronto rivers are all seeded by the government, and it is good when big fish are removed from the ecosystem. We safely returned our female to the water. Alan held her in a stream of fast running water till her tissues were all oxygenated and she swam away.