A small group of individuals is travelling down the North Thompson, Thompson and Fraser rivers, following the route taken by migrating salmon, and speaking to First Nations and other communities along the way about the importance of preserving wild salmon.
The Wild Salmon Caravan started out from Clearwater on Sunday and plans to meet up with an equivalent group that started from Prince George at the same time.
While in Clearwater, the caravan was treated to a lunchtime feast by North Thompson Aboriginal Sharing Center.
This was followed by a ceremony at North Thompson Provincial Park that featured a sharing of food with the fish in the river, plus speeches by Simpcw First Nation chief-elect Fred Fortier and other elders.
According to Dawn Morrison, one of the organizers, the purpose of the caravan is to open people’s minds and hearts to the magnificent spirit of wild salmon, and to link coalitions and campaigns into a powerful collective force to protect salmon from various industrial activities. It is also to advocate for the restoration of healthy wild salmon cycles in the entire Pacific Coast from Alaska to California.
A Secwepemc (Shuswap) woman, Morrison now lives in Vancouver.
The caravan was organized during an event called Wild Salmon Convergence held in Chase in October, 2014.
The remains of pit-houses, food caches and possibly culturally modified trees are evidence that North Thompson Provincial Park was formerly an important Simpcw village, said Fred Fortier in his speech.
Because it now is a park, the Simpcw can no longer carry out certain activities there, such as picking berries, although they do hold ceremonies and other events.
His people used to fish with pitch-lamps in the river nearby, he said.
There was a weir at the mouth of Raft River, and others at Little Fort and on the Barriere River.
The Simpcw tell a story about how Coyote brought salmon into the B.C. Interior. The trickster changed himself into a baby to learn how two women had set up a weir that prevented salmon from moving upstream. Once he learned their secrets, he opened the weir and then travelled upstream teaching the people how to use the new resource.
“This is a gift for you. You will always protect these fish,” Coyote told them.
The chief-elect noted that for 25 years the Simpcw staged a Salmon Run from Tete Jaune to Louis Creek. Band members and others ran (and in later years cycled) in relays, carrying an eagle feather.
“Our children know what salmon are,” he said.
Fortier noted that there are major developments planned for within the Simpcw’s traditional territory.
The Harper Creek Mine proposed for near Vavenby would be four times the size of Mount Polley, he said.
If its tailings pond broke, the effluent would go into North Barriere Lake, the Barriere River and then the North Thompson.
Some people think only in terms of jobs, Fortier said, but we also need to take responsibility for fish, animals and plant life.