Shoreline middle school students help prepare for first ever Coast Salish pit cook at Fort Rodd Hill

Shoreline middle school students help prepare for first ever Coast Salish pit cook at Fort Rodd Hill

WATCH: Hot rocks are burning deep underground at Fort Rodd Hill as organizers prepare to host the first-ever Coast Salish pit cook demonstration this weekend. On Friday, students from Shoreline Middle School paddled over to help prepare the various traditional foods and learn more about the Songhees culture. Luisa Alvarez was there. 

The students paddled in canoes from the Songhees Wellness Centre to the shores of Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site on Friday.

The Grade 8 students from Shoreline Middle School were getting a hands-on lesson in cooking the traditional Coast Salish way.

“We are basically just learning what a pit cook is and how to do it,” said Shoreline Middle School student Tralynn Atleo-George.

And the students were getting their hands dirty doing it. The traditional ingredients of crab apples, chocolate lily and camas were harvested on the grounds at Fort Rodd Hill, which are part of the Songhees Nation ancestral lands.

The kids were responsible for cleaning and preparing  the ingredients before they go into the pit.

The traditional ingredients are cooked underground for 24 hours. Traditionally they’ve always been a hot commodity and a key trading item. From seedling to full-grown bulb, some of the camas can take up to eight years to grow.

“It’s a very rare treat to be able to share today ,even historically, it was because this is the only place in Canada it grows,” said Songhees Nation member Cheryl Bryce.

When the fire started burning, the students helped throw rocks into the pit to heat them up before the food went in.

“We basically are creating a rack, I guess you should say, on top of the hot rocks, putting the camas right into the centre and then layering with some more plants and putting on burlap sacks and the soil on top,” said Bryce.

All the hard work Friday was in preparation for the big event Saturday. More food will be pit cooked then unearthed to share with the nearly 300 people expected to attend.

“There is a lot of history about the fort and the lighthouse here but there’s also a long Indigenous history that we are hoping to share with people on the day. Songhees traditional dancers are going to be sharing traditional dances, there’s going to be storytelling a little bit of something for everyone it’s going to be a great event and we are hoping people can come and join us for the day,” said Susan Macisaac Species at risk engagement officer at Fort Rodd Hill.

Saturday’s day-long event will be the first-ever Coast Salish pit cook demonstration held on the site.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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