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PH: 250-842-0216
FAX: 250-842-2219

P.O. Box 418
Hazelton, BC
V0J 1Y0

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Mini Gallery

Some of the Weir crew are de-limbing the maple before loading it into the truck.

Our truckload of wood

Everyone is hard at work stripping the wood

Our unsung heroes - Patty and Angie are always willing to jump in and help when needed. These ladies prepared the food for us.

Loaded up and ready to go fishing!

Thank you, please visit us again!

Weir Making

This is a picture of a Weir. The Gitxsan name for it is 'benu.'In April 2011, the Youth Helping Youth Mentorship Program (YHY) hosted a 'Weir-making' workshop. This workshop was taught by elder instructor Eli McLean and took a little over 3 weeks to complete.

The weir is a traditional fishing technology that consists of a steam-bent round frame and fence like basket. The framework is tightly woven together and contains an inner basket and funnel entrance.

Special Note: In 1877, during the rise of commercial fisheries, the First Nations age-old fishing methods (specifically weirs) were outlawed. This was done to facilitate maximum collection of fish in open-water net fisheries and for the subsequent processing of fish in nearby canneries.

Special Note: The Gitxsan name for our particular weir is 'benu.'


The Weir-making Process

Week 1: Collecting & Prepping the Maple

A picture of our Elder Instructor Eli McLeanDuring the first week we traveled out to the Gitxsan Territories to harvest maple. The maple had to be fairly young growth and perfectly straight with minimal branching. Many of our participants were unused to trekking out on the territory and unused to the hard work needed to harvest wood - even the bus driver helped chop wood (Thank you Brian!). Among the participants, there was chagrin and amusement as it became apparent that our Elder Instructor enjoyed being out in the woods and could easily stay out there all day. By the time we got back, the participants were tired and joked of having a great sleep that night. The rest of the week we focused on prepping (stripping and notching) the wood for our 'benu's.'

Week 2: Prepping & Building 'Benus'

Building WeirsThe following Monday we traveled again to the territory and the participants were more selective of the wood harvested as they now had an idea of the height, thickness and how perfectly straight the wood needed to be. Once back in the shop we continued to prep the wood and our participants split off into three groups to begin the construction of two 'benu' style weir traps and 1 square 'benu' style trap. One observation made by the participants was the amazing amount of knots needed. It was also observed that there were deliberate gaps built into the 'benu' weirs specifically for controlled fishing - these gaps allowed the smaller fish to escape. One of the participants, James McRae was fascinated by the research supplied by Chris Barnes and he would share interesting facets of the research to the rest of the group. We were all very impressed when James found photography of our Elder Instructor's father building weirs as part of this research. On Friday our group started working on the inner funnel like basket for the 'benu.'

Week 3: Still building 'Benus'

Still building WeirsThe third week focused on completing the outer framework and completing the inner funnel like basket for our weirs. As all of our participants were busy on their projects, Eli, our Elder Instructor started building a fourth traditional trap which was different as it was square, had legs and a funnel like basket that was suspended at the front opening. On Wednesday we knew we would not be hosting the scheduled on-site fishing lessons as we were still busy building. By Friday we had completed 2 round 'benu' weirs, 1 square 'benu' weir and another square fish trap with legs and a suspended funnel like basket.

Week 4: Gone Fishing...

Using the WeirFor Monday we planned a fun excursion where we could try out 2 of our 'benu' fish traps. We were warned that we may not catch any fish as it was too soon after winter, the river was flowing fast and it was too early for the fish-run season, we decided to be optimistic anyway and hoped to catch 'lots of fish.' But just in case, we planned a picnic style lunch that did not rely on our catching fish to cook. At the riverside, we attached the funnel-like baskets and performed some last minute fixes before we practiced rolling our weirs into the water. We let our fish traps sit in the river while we went and played mini football and ate marshmallows. Later on we hauled out our 'benu' weirs and saw that we had captured alot of debris but no fish. We were mildly disappointed but checked the state of our weirs to see how they held up to the fast running water. We then had our picnic and discussed future excursions with our 'benu' weirs. It was decided that we would try them out at the Gisgegas Canyon when the fish run occurs. We concluded our fishing excursion with a traditional gambling game called La Hal.

If you are interested in 'Weir-making, sign up for our workshop using the application form. Please ensure that you fill out all required information.

A picture of Totem Carving

Once enough applications are received then we will schedule a "Weir-Making" workshop.

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