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Posted: February 12, 2015

Artists engaged by salmon reintroduction

“What if we could bring the salmon back to the headwaters of the Columbia River within a century of their loss?”

This was the question that inspired 21 artists to come together to begin creating works of art on the theme of Salmon restoration.

The results of their inspiration and work are on display at the Cranbrook and District Arts Council gallery (135- 10th Avenue South, Cranbrook) from February 3 – 27.

A shot of Celilo Falls, a once legendary salmon fishing locale for Pacific Northwest First Nations residents, was lost in 1957 when The Dalles Dam was completed. Photo from Western Ecology Division/epa.gov
A shot of Celilo Falls, a once legendary salmon fishing locale for Pacific Northwest First Nations residents, was lost in 1957 when The Dalles Dam was completed. Photo from Western Ecology Division/epa.gov

The upper Columbia Salmon runs, once the largest run in the world, were abruptly sacrificed in the late 1930s with the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

The recent PBS American Experience documentary described how building the Grand Coulee resulted in “cultural savagery” with its consequence to US Tribes and Canadian First Nations, and as “environmental butchery” in its destruction of salmon and to the web of benefits that salmon gave us.

Completion of the Grand Coulee Dam led in turn to the Columbia River Treaty, which formalized water control from Canada to the USA.

The Treaty review now taking place represents the single most important opportunity to make real environmental change in our lifetime.

Was salmon loss necessary? Was it forever? The Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society (SWSS) within its ‘The River Speaks’ awareness campaign reached out to the local artist community to explore the questions and issues surrounding Salmon re-introduction.

On May 8 and 9, 2014, 21 artists came together for the Let Them Run, The Salmon Century experiential learning adventure that focused on water, the Columbia River Treaty, and the challenges, benefits and successes of salmon reintroduction.

Gaining insights, artists were asked to use their skills to create artwork that defines the meaning, challenges and benefits of salmon reintroduction so that they can bring awareness to Basin residents of a loss that can be regained.

The resulting artworks were first displayed at the Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar in the fall of 2014 and are now on display at the Cranbrook and District Arts Council Gallery.

Gallery viewing hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Lead image: Grand Coulee Jam by Ian Cobb/Through My Eyes Photography

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