Rakaia, located about 50 kilometres south of Christchurch on State Highway 1, is not what you would call a destination town.

rakaia salmonBlink and you could just about miss it, except for one thing –  a giant roadside salmon that stands as a reminder that while the town might not have many residents, it’s river is highly populated with salmon. 

Considered among fishermen to the be the ‘salmon capital of New Zealand’,  Rakaia comes alive during the salmon fishing season between October and April. People from around the country and the world come to fish for salmon.

But this year, there’s a group of people are coming to Rakaia not to catch the salmon but to apologize to them instead and ask them to come home.

To some, this might sound like an April Fool’s joke but to the Winnemem Wintu tribe from Northern California, this is no laughing matter. They want the salmon to come home.  And they believe that the only way this will happen is if they apologize to the Rakaia River salmon who are derived from the Chinook salmon eggs from the McCloud River in Northern California.

Having travelled more than 11,000 miles, the tribe plans on staging a four day spiritual ceremony starting on March 28th, which will culminate in the rare ’nur chomas winyupus’ (middle water salmon dance) on the banks of the Rakaia River.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this will result in the salmon returning to the McCloud River. So the tribe also plans on asking  New Zealand authorities if they can take some  salmon eggs – once of California stock – back to with them.

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