Valley First Nations holding inaugural Columbia Salmon Festival Sept. 28-Oct.1
The first Columbia Salmon Festival will be taking place September 28-October 1 in the Columbia Valley. This inaugural Festival is being hosted by the Shuswap Indian Band and Akisqnuk First Nation and proudly supported by the Canadian Columbia Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partnership and Fairmont Trails Society.
The mission of the festival is to inform people about the history and future of salmon in the upper Columbia, and their cultural significance. The festival will consist of events and activities in the Invermere to Fairmont Hot Springs areas including Youth Salmon Awareness Field Trips, guest speakers presentations, a Charity Golf Tournament, the Salmon Monument Celebrations and conclude with the Gala Salmon Dinner with Celebrity Chef David Wolfman.
This historic event will involve: First Nations and US Tribe Political Leaders; Federal, Provincial, Municipal and Regional Leaders; Members of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Shuswap Nation; Columbia Valley Residents; and members of the General Public.
In 2011, many people in the valley have forgotten the role that salmon played in the Upper Columbia prior to the construction of Grand Coulee Dam in 1942. Prior to that time, Chinook salmon spawned in the Upper Columbia, many of them in the river right below the Fairmont and Copper Point resorts. Many of the fish weighed 40 pounds and were a critical source of sustenance for Ktunaxa Nation and Shuswap (Kinbasket) community members. The fish were also harvested during their spawning migrations by aboriginal people and early commercial fishermen from the Pacific Ocean to the headwaters.
Although the big salmon are gone, they have been replaced ecologically by Kokanee salmon (pictured above) and some 250,000 of these small land-locked salmon presently spawn in these same areas. They will turn the river bright red during the actual event, which is being held at the height of the run. This event will celebrate both the big salmon we have lost and the little salmon that we still have in the river. The goal of this event is, “to provide opportunities for ALL to learn about the past, present and future of Salmon in the Columbia River, and (their) importance to First Nations and everyone in the Upper Columbia Valley.”
We welcome one and all to join us in making this inaugural Columbia Salmon Festival a great success as we celebrate the remarkable history and promising future of these resilient and phenomenal creatures.
By Sunny Lebourdais and Andi Dzilums, Event Coordinators