The Salmon Circle

by Fraser Lang and Alison Lang

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

The Salmon Dance


Chorus ROCK
And the salmon circle from the sea to the sea, up the rivers of life
D           E               F#-
endlessly, and they always return to the place they began, for a million years they
 D                  E	F#-
swam and swam and swam

Verse (1,2,4)
                   F#-                                 G#-
Round the rocks in the pool, in the river below, they are
F#-	                         B7	                                F#-
turning and turning Oh so slow, and they've been there forever in that
G#-                                   B#-                           B7
sacred dance, round and round they go, it's a water romance And the (to Chorus)

Verse 3
F#-              G#-                             F#-                 B7           
Red backs, moving in the stream; Hump backs dancing in a dream;
F#-                        G#-                                F#-                 B7
Nose to tail, they circle round and round, Go back to the spawning ground (to Chorus)

    To the long slow rhythm of a four-year cycle, 
to the pounding beat of the oceans that are like a 
drum that sounds clear across the globe, 
and it's calling its children, 
it's calling its children home.

     By the taste of the waters they return to the 
lay down their eggs feel the life force
resting safe in the gravel pass the winter through, 
these great fish are dying 
but in the spring life renews.

The Dance

Step 1:

Women and men alternate in a circle, and begin moving in a counterclockwise direction making the salmon motion. Put your hands in front of you, palms together, forming the salmon’s nose. Then make swimming, bobbing, swaying movements as you go around the circle. Feel the scales growing on your skin.

Step 2:

After the first chorus make two circles, the women on the inside, the men on the outside. With the first verse, begin circling, the outside circle counterclockwise, the inside circle clockwise.

Step 3:

After the chorus, the men’s circle stops and the women find alternate positions in the outside circle. They begin a weave with the men continuing counterclockwise and the women clockwise.

Step 4:

Women leave the weave circle and form a stationary spawning circle in the middle. The men’s circle continues to spin and the men make dashes through the women’s circle.

Step 5

At the end of the chorus, the men’s circle stops and the women rejoin it, and they begin the weave, the same as the second verse.

Step 6

At the end of the final chorus, “And they swam and swam and swam…,” the circle stops and everybody joins hands and comes into the center with their hands raised above their heads. This is repeated a second time ending in a circle, raising their hands above their heads, then bending forward in the salmon’s final death.

Fraser Lang and Alison Lang, from North American Bioregional Congress III Proceedings, 1989.

Alison Lang has long experience of living in the dry Fraser bioregion, near Lillooet, British Columbia where she also practices Zen. An artist and drum-maker, she also helped to organize the third North American Bioregional Congress, held near Squamish in 1988.

Fraser Lang is a bioregional poet from the mountains of British Columbia; he also is a singer/songwriter/musician with the eco-rock band, Zumak, and was also a member of the site committee for the third North American Bioregional Congress.

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