A love and respect for local salmon species united over 1000 people last week, during the second annual virtual Bringing the Salmon Home Festival on May 3 and 4. This year’s free online festival featured 50 guest presenters, who spoke of the importance of reintroducing salmon back to the upper Columbia River. Audience members tuned in from across western Canada all the way to the United States.
Representatives of the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa and Secwépemc Nations and select U.S. tribes were present, passionately speaking from the heart to all those listening. “It is encouraging to see the level of commitment that has been expressed by the representatives from our respective communities, nations and the non-Indigenous governments. Our success will take years, if not decades, but our collective hard work will make it so,” says Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair. “We all can play a part in bringing the salmon home, as we work together to share what we know and what we have learned is, and will continue to be, vital.”
This year’s festival kicked off at 11 a.m. last Tuesday, May 3, with the opening ceremony hosted by Mark Thomas, Executive Working Group Chair for the Bringing the Salmon Home Initiative. “Through this festival, we offer a vision, an invitation and a shared affirmation to work together to bring the salmon home to the upper Columbia River in Canada,” says Thomas. The program coordination of this year’s event was a team effort led by Valerie Michel, Troy Hunter, Carrie Terbasket and Pauline Terbasket. It was hosted through the Indigenous-led collaboration of the five government partners involved with The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative: Bringing the Salmon Home. Stories and wisdom were shared from Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and experts in the field over the course of two days.
Everything went off without a hitch and the audience in attendance were smitten and unanimously positive, evident in the chat box comment section during sessions. One of many read, “I truly appreciate the invitation to participate, to learn, and to feel hope through these thoughtful and responsible initiatives. I also truly appreciate the way presenters shared life stories.”
It was many of these stories that were passed down generationally since salmon have not been seen in the upper Columbia River for over eighty years, and the need for them back is vital. “Many people from both sides of the border have been putting in countless hours of time and energy to help bring the salmon back up here, to reclaim the spawning grounds. This would then allow them to have a full life cycle. I pray that one day salmon will be able to make it up here by swimming, instead of arriving in small packages from grocery stores,” says Secwépemc (Shuswap) Nation Elder, Louie Stevens.
On Wednesday night, youth brought their heartfelt perspective, leaders shared their reflections, and a prayer was led as the festival came to a close. Plans for next year’s event are already in the works, and there is hope that gatherings will be able to take place in the near future.
If you were unable to attend last week’s online event, the public can enjoy diverse presentations from knowledge keepers, artists, musicians, biologists, elders, and youth by clicking on the festival page links at ColumbiaRiverSalmon.ca. “I look forward to change and seeing a difference as we move forward. We need to care for all tributaries of the Columbia River,” says Chief Crow of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. “I believe in our responsibility to our future.”
Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer