Indigenous-led festival works towards bringing salmon back to the upper Columbia River

Bringing the salmon home

For more than 80 years, salmon have been blocked by dams from returning to the upper Columbia River in the Kootenay region of British Columbia.

But area First Nations are hoping to change that and restore the waterway to its former glory as one of the greatest salmon runs in the world.

Bringing the Salmon Home: The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative is an Indigenous-led project of the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa and Secwépemc Nations, in partnership with Canada and BC, which is exploring innovative ways to bring the salmon back.

The Bringing the Salmon Home Festival will include keynote presentations by Indigenous leaders and scholars, salmon cooking classes and sessions on food sovereignty and food security, Indigenous knowledge and western science, storytelling and discussions with artists, musicians and poets.

The virtual event takes place May 10-16.

“The Syilx Okanagan Nation have a long-standing and successful record of salmon reintroduction in the Okanagan system of the Columbia watershed, with upwards of 500,000 sockeye now returning annually. We know, from decades of experience, that we do have the technology, and also that partnerships and collaboration are central to salmon restoration,” said Chief Keith Crow of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. “The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative will take the same dedication to collaborative work, now with the other two Nations, to bring salmon back to the upper Columbia River region. We know reintroducing the salmon can be done, despite the many challenges.”

Added Kukpi7 Wayne Christian of the Secwepemc Nation, “This initiative is about providing both salmon and hope for our common future. As Indigenous nations, we know that this work is feasible. And it is our sacred responsibility. We’re excited to be co-hosting the Bringing the Salmon Home Festival as part of engaging community members in this important work.”

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