Violet Bell pose for press photo by Chris Frisina
Chris Frisina

Violet Bell's 'Fisherman's Daughter' is an Ancient Tale for Modern Life [Premiere]

Americana duo Violet Bell's (Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez) "Fisherman's Daughter" sounds timeless — and for good reason. The song, from the duo's forthcoming album Shapeshifter (out Oct. 7), was inspired by the ancient Celtic myth of the selkie, a mythical seal who can shed her skin to become human.

"The selkie has to choose between staying on land to die, or leaving her daughter behind to return to the sea," the band says. "When she puts on her skin and goes back to the sea, the selkie breaks the cycle of maternal martyrdom and gives her daughter permission to live fully."

The video, filmed by Lauren Balthrop and Lizzy Ross, is a stunning celebration of the land and people of Three Mile Island in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire and the annual Miles of Music Camp. 

"This island, like much of New England, is located on unceded Wabanaki Territory. Dinty Child, who drives the boat in the video, grew up going to Three Mile Island every summer and is now its winter caretaker. Together with Kristin Andreassen, Laura Cortese, and a team of amazing people, they founded Miles of Music as a place to celebrate and nurture community, connection and creative collaboration," Violet Bell tells Wide Open Country. "This was our second year at Miles of Music, and our first year teaching. It's one of our favorite places in the world, where we live our core values every day in relationship with the land,  music and our community." 

The titular "fisherman's daughter" is portrayed by fiddler Ruby John, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, the Odawa and Ojibwe people, and a real life fisherman's daughter.

John's parents, Ed and Cindi John, own the Treaty Fishing Company and run the Linda Sue, a fishing boat named in memory of Cindi's sister, out of the tribal marina on Grand Traverse Bay in Michigan. Ed and Cindi learned to fish from the late Art Duhamel, a Native fisherman who fought for federal recognition of Indian treaty rights throughout 1970s, leading to federal recognition, treaty fishing rights, and running water and electric power for the Peshawbestown reservation. 

Ruby, who was born and raised on the boat (her first crib was a fishbox) and would spend whole days out on the water practicing her fiddle, says fishing was "a lifestyle choice for my parents."

"Getting on the boat to set nets or pull nets centers you back in who you are, and the connection with history, the land and ancestral ways." Ruby says. 

Ruby is currently working on a grant-funded project to film her parents' work and preserve their legacy for future generations. 

Watch the video for "Fisherman's Daughter" below.

Violet Bell will join Valerie June on tour for four upcoming shows: the Knitting Factory in Spokane, Washington on July 31, Capital Ballroom in Victoria, BC on Aug. 2, ALMA in Tacoma, Washington on Aug. 3 and the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon on Aug. 4. 

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