Dave Stevens


(posted on 14 Mar 2023)

Night smelt, also called eulachon or candle fish, is native to the west coast. At spawning they are so oily that they can be dried and burned as candles. The illustration shows a night smelt ready for bed carrying a candle, a sneaky way to connect the night smelt to the idea of a candle.

My exposure to them came from two Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) artists, Beau Dick and Russell Smith, with whom I developed friendships while at university. I lived on the main floor of a house while they were in the basement with their families. One evening they invited me to join them in a feast that coincided with the spawning of eulachons, or night smelts. They had acquired eulachon oil up the coast and brought it down with them. Roasted potato quarters were combined with salmon and held together by hand as they were dipped in fish oil and salt. This combination was eaten and the procedure was repeated until you were full or the eulachon oil ran out.

Beau Dick, who was a chief with the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, died in 2017. His work can be found at various galleries, such as the Fazakas Gallery
Russell Smith, also descended from chiefs, died in 2011. His work can be found in various galleries, such as the Spirit Gallery

Look under Artists to read about Beau and Russell.

Here are a couple of designs by Beau Dick from our collection. We also have a silver bracelet by Russell Smith but it is in a box somewhere.