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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

First Salmon Ceremony

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

First Salmon Ceremony

ca. 1978

Ron Hilbert Coy (Vadesqidab)

Tulalip/Upper Skagit, 1944 - 2006

The annual honoring of the salmon is depicted here in a continuous narrative: songs are sung to welcome the first salmon of the season, the salmon is respectfully carried in a cradle of cedar boughs, and then the bones are returned to the water. This reverential treatment alerts the Salmon People below the water to keep sending fish as sustenance to the People, a practice which honors the relationship between humans and the natural world. After colonization stripped such sacred practices from Native life, this important ceremony was revived among Puget Sound tribes in the 1970s.
Wood, copper and paint
10 x 28 1/4 x 2 in. (25.4 x 71.8 x 5.1cm)
Gift of Vi Hilbert, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum
Provenance: The artist; Vi Hilbert, Washington, until 2005
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Song, Story, Speech: Oral Traditions of Puget Sound's First People, Aug. 5, 2004 - Jan. 31, 2006.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, S'abadeb - The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists, Oct. 24, 2008 - Jan. 11, 2009 (Victoria, British Columbia, Royal British Columbia Museum, Nov. 2009 - Mar. 2010).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water, Mar. 18 - May 30, 2022.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM