This film relates the efforts of a Tlingit man, Cory Mann, to negotiate between survival in the world’s economy as an entrepreneur and retention of his cultural identity as a member of the Thunderbird Clan. His business travels take him across the Pacific to various Asian countries, but the lure of smoking fish draws him to abandon his office in Juneau and spend a couple of summer months smoking fish among relatives near Klukwan, Alaska. There at the fish camp, “all the world is alive,” whereas, “down in the United States only people are alive.” Moreover, when you are smoking fish, “the past, present, and future are all the same.”
 The message of the film is casually presented by way of Cory Mann’s participation in traditional life—fishing with his nephew, using a canoe and a long net; cutting up the fish so that they can be hung on poles and placed in the smoke house; repairing and reconstructing the smoke house; participating in ceremonial dancing; along with an offhand, almost humorous, personal commentary about the significance of these activities. We hear that the Tlingit, after the arrival of Europeans, became half Christian and half salmon-worshipper, and, if you run into bears, talk to them since they also belong to the Thunderbird Clan. Because of the casual style by which Cory Mann serves as the cultural broker, the varied scenes of Tlingit cultural life begin to seem natural rather than exotic. When the comment is make that the smoke house serves as a family haven, the statement seems perfectly understandable, and the viewer may wish he or she could also take refuge there.
 Cory’s aunt has a gift for delivering deliberate and genuinely profound commentary affirming traditional Tlingit understanding of matters. At the same time, this aunt has a husband who is an Italian immigrant, and who appears on screen as someone who is happily and seamlessly integrated into Tlingit life. You cannot script such unexpected factors, and it is the unscripted style of “Smokin’ Fish” that captivates the viewer and validates a Tlingit worldview as religiously appropriate in this modern moment.