22 Mar 2010

Native Americans seek to reclaim salmon from NZ

5:58 pm on 22 March 2010

A group of Native Americans is on a spiritual pilgrimage to New Zealand to reclaim a breed of salmon their tribe believes is linked to its own fate.

Chinook salmon eggs were shipped from America to New Zealand more than 130 years ago and the fish now thrives in Canterbury rivers.

Twenty-eight representatives of the Winnemem Wintu people from California plan to apologise to the Chinook salmon, known in New Zealand as quinnat, which they believe is descended from eggs taken from their rivers.

The Winnemem believe their tribe's problems began in the 1940s when a dam blocked the Sacramento and McCloud rivers, cutting off the seasonal salmon run.

A spokesperson for Ngai Tahu says the Winnemem have been in discussions with local Maori over their plans to reintroduce the salmon to their native waterways.

[The New York Times reports the Winnemem will apologise to the salmon in a four-day ceremony on the banks of the Rakaia River starting on 28 March, which tribal elders say has not been performed in more than 60 years.