Shuswap Band takes back what was lost

·2 min read

To take back what has been gone for 82 years, the Shuswap Band has honoured their culture by celebrating “Salmon Festival” every second Saturday of September.

The Columbia Valley Pioneer talked to band councillor Mark Thomas about the upcoming celebration. He explained the history of the salmon and why it has been an essential part of their culture.

“The reason behind that is many, because of the attachment of salmon to our culture as aquatic people,” Thomas said. “That’s the transfer of knowledge we have, as Indigenous peoples, that we use to teach our children to teach others. Our practices, our values, and to make sure that the resource is used in a respectful manner.”

Thomas said the connection between their people and local resources is very important.

“We made a pact with those animals because they gave themselves to us, and we made a pact to them that we would always protect them.”

But unfortunately, for a very long time, the Band’s culture has been stripped away from them. Thomas believes that the salmon should be restored to their lands, as well as their language, culture and other ceremonies.

On September 9, the Shuswap Band annually celebrates not only the restoration of salmon, but the culture. They have been hosting the Salmon Festival for more than 10 years.

The free celebration features cultural music, scientific talks on salmon, and their relationship with the environment. There will also be dancing, traditional storytelling, and presentations by local elders and children.

“A good component of that is to focus on our children, and to make sure that our children understand the importance of their role in demonstrating who we are, being proud of themselves, knowing that [they will] take the torch from us at some point,” Thomas said proudly. “It’s a powerful site.”

Thomas said there will be a special event on May 26 when the band will release 1500 salmon smolts to honour the festival.

He pointed out that the celebration “bring awareness” to the fish and their “struggles” to survive.

The councillor described the festival as an “opportunity” for everyone to get involved in an important Indigenous culture and tradition.

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Julia Archelene Magsombol, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer