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Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species


Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species Cover

ISBN13: 9780807085493
ISBN10: 0807085499
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Part lyrical natural history, part social and philosophical manifesto, Totem Salmon tells the story of a determined band of locals who've worked for over two decades to save one of the last purely native species of salmon in California. The book-call it the zen of salmon restoration-traces the evolution of the Mattole River Valley community in northern California as it learns to undo the results of rapacious logging practices; to invent ways to trap wild salmon for propagation; and to forge alliances between people who sometimes agree on only one thing-that there is nothing on earth like a Mattole king salmon.

House writes from streamside: "I think I can hear through the cascades of sound a systematic plop, plop, plop, as if pieces of fruit are being dropped into the water. Sometimes this is the sound of a fish searching for the opening upstream; sometimes it is not. I breathe quietly and wait." Freeman House's writing about fish and fishing is erotic, deeply observed, and simply some of the best writing on the subject in recent literature.

House tells the story of the annual fishing rituals of the indigenous peoples of the Klamath River in northern California, one that relies on little-known early ethnographic studies and on indigenous voices-a remarkable story of self-regulation that unites people and place. And his riffs on the colorful early history of American hatcheries, on property rights, and on the "happiness of the state" show precisely why he's considered a West Coast visionary.

Petitions to list a dozen West Coast salmon runs under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act make saving salmon an issue poised to consume the Pacific West. "Never before, said Federal officials, has so much land or so many people been given notice that they will have to alter their lives to restore a wild species" (New York Times, 2/27/98). Totem Salmon is set to become the essential read for this newest chapter in our relations with other wild things.




Part lyrical true-life adventure, part social and philosophical manifesto, TOTEM SALMON tells of a watershed community that worked for two decades to save one of the last purely native stocks of salmon in California.

About the Author

Freeman House, a former commercial salmon fisherman, is cofounder of the Mattole Watershed Salmon Support Group and of the Mattole Restoration Council. He lives in Petrolia in the Mattole River Valley of northwestern California, and this is his first book.

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Cucullatus, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Cucullatus)
That this was House's first book is cause for wonder in any reader and despair in those who are also aspiring writers. He relates, simply and engagingly, a number of fascinating stories: the importance of the salmon to all the human communities that have inhabited this part of California's north coast; the threats to the fish's survival; and how the current community, with its widely divergent interests, came together to address those threats. In the process, he evokes a sense of place as few other writers in my experience have done. Definitely the most worthwhile hours I spent with a book in 2010.
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Product Details

House, Freeman
Beacon Press (MA)
Boston, Mass. :
Fishery conservation
Stream ecology
Mattole River
General Nature
Animals - Fish
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
May 2000
Grade Level:
8.41x5.58x.64 in. .71 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Air and Water
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Fish
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » Fish
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » Fisheries

Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species New Trade Paper
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Product details 248 pages Beacon Press - English 9780807085493 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by ,
Part lyrical true-life adventure, part social and philosophical manifesto, TOTEM SALMON tells of a watershed community that worked for two decades to save one of the last purely native stocks of salmon in California.
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