Drumming, singing and dancing were part of the Wild Salmon Caravan parade held Oct. 12 in Chase (Secwepemcul’ecw), the final stop in the annual caravan celebrating the spirit of wild salmon that began in Vancouver Oct. 7. Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

Honouring, healing wild salmon

Wild Salmon Caravan joins people in passion for the fish.

Like the wild salmon they were honouring, people participating in the Wild Salmon Caravan wound their way from the Pacific Ocean/Salish Sea all the way to Secwepemc territory and the Adams River.

“It was epic, is the first word that comes to my mind,” said Dawn Morrison, one of two main organizers of the caravan, this year its third. “It was deeply rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, exhausting, exciting – those are all the words that come to mind. It was really beautiful to see the involvement of the school children and to see indigenous people in all the different communities we visited, to be seen in such a positive light, with our beautiful cultural expressions of our love of the wild salmon.”

It was quite emotional to see the healing, she said, and the love that comes from it.

She also said non-indigenous people who travelled with the caravan and who helped with the event, many were moved to tears.

“They had really powerful testimonials, how they were affected in that spirit.”

A Wild Salmon Caravan parade moved along the streets of Chase to the bandshell on Thursday, Oct. 12, the last day of the journey which began Oct. 7.

The caravan was led by Salish matriarchs from indigenous communities along the route, and bear dancers led the parade in Chase. They came from Lillooet, the Stl’atl’imx Nation.

“This wasn’t a performance, we’re not here to entertain the people,” said bear dancer Howard Shields. “It is a healing and protection ceremony – to heal the fish and people. It’s not something we do lightly.”

He said it was an honour to dance for the caravan, to which dancers Donovan Adolph, Robert Narcisse and Charles Billy agreed.

Speaking during the traditional welcome, Robert Matthew, former principal of the Adams Lake Chief Atahm School, said when First Nations use the phrase ‘all my relations,’ they’re referring to everything the creator has given them, all living things, especially the salmon.

“There are things we’re given, it’s up to us to look after them.”

Neskonlith elder Minnie Kenoras expressed her gratitude for Morrison and co-organizer Eddie Gardner for putting the caravan together, and to the Neskonlith band for hosting the dinner the night before.

The working group on indigenous food sovereignty was the leading host organization for the caravan, of which Morrison is part.

She said the caravan will continue each year until the wild salmon are coming home in the millions like they used to. She points out that the Shuswap and Adams geographical regions are home to some of the best-laid spawning grounds in the world.

“We hope the salmon will return safely and the numbers have increased, just as the numbers of the caravan have increased over the years.”

That’s the primary vision of the caravan, she said.

And she would like everyone to take part in taking care of the wild salmon, which are so essential to life.

“I hope there’ll be an increased awareness of the issues, the situation, the strategies for increasing the numbers of wild salmon that are returning to spawn, because their numbers have dwindled so low. But also an increased awareness of human behaviours and cultures that are impacting them.”


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