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Reviving the Columbia: Indigenous Efforts to Restore Salmon

CBT
By CBT
June 20th, 2024

Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River, once hailed as the greatest salmon-producing river in the world, hasn’t seen a significant spawn in its upper portion for 85 years. However, Indigenous-led salmon restoration efforts are currently underway to try to change that.

Since the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in 1939, salmon have been blocked from returning to the Canadian portion of the upper Columbia River. Despite this, Indigenous Nations have remained committed to the goal of salmon reintroduction. Five years ago, Bringing the Salmon Home: the Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative was launched. This initiative, led by the Syilx Okanagan Nation, Secwépemc Nation and Ktunaxa Nation, is in partnership with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, with support from Columbia Basin Trust. The initiative aims to reintroduce salmon to Indigenous food, social and ceremonial needs, as well as to benefit the region’s residents and ecosystems.

In support of this initiative, the Bringing the Salmon Home Transboundary Tour was launched on May 24 and 25. This event united hundreds of people at the river’s headwaters in the East Kootenay to raise awareness about the historical and ecological significance of the Columbia River and the importance of salmon reintroduction. The tour, under the banner “It takes a river of people to bring the salmon”, highlights the collaborative efforts involved in this significant project.

The launch included the unveiling of a Bringing the Salmon Home mural by Ktunaxa artist Darcy Luke at ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, Windermere, and a Tri-Nation ceremonial salmon fry release in Invermere, where people participated in releasing salmon fry into the lake. The following day featured special presentations and cultural performances took place at Raven’s Nest, overlooking the Columbia River wetlands, north of Fairmont Hot Springs.

Following the tour launch, discussions with high school students and a community film screening of Bringing the Salmon Home were held at Golden Secondary School on May 27. A series of Transboundary Tour activities are planned over the coming year.

Combining Indigenous knowledge, Western science and cultural engagement, the initiative aims to reintroduce salmon to the Canadian portion of the Columbia River, a significant goal as nearly 40 per cent of the river’s main stem originates in southeastern BC. Ongoing efforts include ceremonial salmon fry releases and technical studies.

Learn more at columbiariversalmon.ca.

Categories: General

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