He’s a fisherman, his father was a fisherman and his grandfather and great-grandfather before that were fishermen.
For 48 years Peter Haugan has fished and while it is his livelihood, for nearly the same number of years basketball, specifically the All Native Basketball Tournament, has been his passion.
Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Haugan, now 63, started fishing when he was 15. Over the years he’s experienced the ups and downs of the industry. For 20 years he was the president of the Prince Rupert Fisherman’s Guild and represented all the crewman on the seine boats, trawlers and halibut boats.
He cherishes a few highlights from his past and his white, bearded merry face lights up when he recounts those stories.
“I fished with my brother on the Golden Chalice for 30 years and I remember one day clearly,” Peter said, then described a time when he was with his brother at the tail end of the Fraser River sockeye season near Haida Gwaii. His brother took a chance to go to an area where there might be salmon but no boats instead of going to where he knew the fish would be. It paid off. He said that a normal day for a commercial salmon seine is about 10,000 to 20,000 lbs of fish.
“We had 80,000 lbs of salmon in one set of tides. It was my biggest day as a commercial fisherman.”
Another memory he’s particularly fond of was, once again, on his brother’s boat. The government paid them to catch the salmon to be tagged and then returned to the sea for research. The brothers had never met the individual contracted to tag the fish on Haida Gwaii, but then there she was.
“Down the dock comes this young lady and she’s going to be the one that tags the salmon and her name was Darlene, and about three or four weeks later we started dating and the next thing you know two years later we’re married.”
The couple have celebrated 33 years together and have had two children, a son who is also a fisherman, and a daughter who is working toward being a chartered accountant.
At one point Haugan’s fishing career almost cost him his hand.
Haugan was out tying a beach line on a salmon seine when he got his left hand pinned under a rock. Fortunately, he was able to pull himself free but his ring finger was sprained, swollen, and he had to cut off his wedding band. Darlene, considered having a broken ring bad luck so he had a new one made by Tsimshian artist, John Sterritt, in the design of an eagle with a diamond for an eye.
These days Haugan mainly fishes for prawns on his 36-foot boat, the Marci Lynn. He especially loves the spring time when he travels along “unique and cool places in British Columbia’s coast line.” He takes his son, who is now in his thirties and a commercial fisherman, and hires two women to pack the prawns once they’ve been caught. He usually finds women who are working over the summer to pay for college or university tuition.
“The experience on the boat really empowers them to know that they can do anything they want to do.” One of the women, he said, has become a doctor and another is on her way to becoming one.
While Haugan fishes to make a living, he lives for basketball.
He is the president of the All-Native Basketball Tournament and has been involved with the tournament almost since it’s inception — 2016 will be the 57th year. He only missed the first six years because he was too young.
As a 13-years-old, he became a scorekeeper before the old Civic Centre burnt down.
“In those days you were allowed to smoke in the gymnasium so by the end of the night the kids are sitting up there choking and could barely see the players.”
He got his chance to play point guard with the Rainmakers in 1971 in his Grade 12 year. Then he went from scorekeeper to referee in his twenties. As the tournament grew in size, the North Coast Tribal Council formed a committee to manage the scorekeepers and referees.
Haugan joined the committee and worked his way up the ladder.
“Next you know you’re vice-president and when they need a president I guess they all just pointed the finger and that was that.”
When he’s not fishing he spends countless hours organizing the tournament. He’s excited for this year’s tournament and the new $206,000 court that’s being made.
“This new court is going to look just like the Charlotte Hornets’ Court. It’s going to be pretty flashy. Our logo will be right at second court facing the fans.”
Life in Rupert has been sweet for the multi-generational fisherman who found an outlet to sate his enthusiasm for basketball.
When he was young and unmarried he used to spend winters in Acapulco. Now he spends those winters organizing basketball tournaments.
“I’m a Rupertite. I’m not going anywhere. I will never move away from here.”