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Salmon and Indigenous Food Security

by Anne Jardine

Local Food Security & Kootenay-Columbia Part VI

Another aspect of local food security that will take on increasing importance in the coming years is the Indigenous-led Bringing the Salmon Home Initiative that seeks to restore the great salmon runs to the Upper Columbia River and ultimately, home to Columbia Lake.

The great historic salmon run of the Columbia River once supported an entire interrelated culture of Salmon People throughout western North America. All the major rivers – Fraser, Skeena, Naas, and many others, ran red with spawning salmon every fall. But their abundance was perhaps greatest on the mighty Columbia. The run was destroyed in the years between 1933 and 1942 by the building of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State, and the later building of a series of other dams on the British Columbia part of the river. The direct result of the loss of the salmon was effective genocide for the First Nations who depended on this primary food source.

The Bringing the Salmon Home Initiative will be one step towards building a right relationship with the Indigenous people of the region, and it would improve their food sovereignty and security by restoring their essential traditional food supply.

This project, which has been underway for several years, is headed up by Indigenous Elders and Band Councils of the Akisqnuk/Ktunaxa, the Shuswap/Secwepemc and the Sylix Nations.

The plan involves science, engineering, politics, and ceremony. Major partners include the BC Government and several of its ministries, the Government of Canada and several of its ministries, Regional District Governments of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary, and Columbia Shuswap, as well as many Municipal governments of cities and towns along the River. The project’s main funding partners include the Columbia Basin Trust, BC Hydro, and Teck Resources. The Columbia River Treaty renegotiations between the US and Canada are integral to the future of this project.

Wayne Stetski, NDP Candidate, has participated in the Columbia River Treaty renegotiations since its inception, as Mayor and Regional District Director at first, and later as Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament. He was involved in the drafting of the recommendations by the municipal governments from around the Kootenays and met regularly in Ottawa with Canada’s Chief Negotiator, Sylvain Fabi when he was a Member of Parliament. He has taken part in several of the Salmon Festival’s ceremonial gatherings.

Stetski is hopeful for the future: “This project is a bold, visionary, concept that may take a generation, but will be amazing!”


Ktunaxa Chief Alfred Joseph and Shuswap Chief Barb Cote prepare for a Salmon Ceremony in Invermere in 2018

Read about the New Democratic Party's"Healthy Food Policy" Commitments in Ready for Better.

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