By Bonnie Klohn, KFPC Food Policy Lead
The Wild Salmon Caravan is an Indigenous-led event where participants travel from the Salish Seas to the Adam’s River. The Caravan stops along the way in communities to do ceremonies, prayers, and parades to celebrate and call for the protection of wild salmon.
It is an arts-based event where gigantic salmon puppets, water spirits, traditional singers and drummers, and colourful flags scatter the carnival-like atmosphere on the streets. This year is the 4th annual journey of the Wild Salmon Caravan, which will include a parade in our region in Chase, on Saturday, September 29th.
I had the opportunity to participate in the Wild Salmon Caravan last year, and the experience was insightful, fun, and deeply moving. Participants had the opportunity to engage in and witness ceremonies that Indigenous people have done since time immemorial to call the salmon home. We also learned about the many ways that the ecosystem has changed since the start of colonization. In the Fraser Valley, for example, we saw how a tributary to the Fraser, that was once clear and salmon bearing, is now murky and opaque, due to the agricultural fertilizers that have run off into the water system and disrupted the balance of nutrients in the river.
We heard about a Secwepemc Elder who saw the Thompson River run red with salmon when she was a child, and was not able to harvest or receive salmon for the first time in her life in 2017, due to the declining salmon stocks.
We heard about the dead zones under the open net fish farms in the ocean, and the fish lice that infests so many of the migrating wild salmon, preventing them from reaching their spawning grounds.
These experiences made me realize how fragile and sensitive the salmon are to the changes that humans make in the environment. Indigenous Elders repeated that if the salmon become extinct, so too will we.
We depend on the very same environment that the salmon depend on for life: clean water, healthy oceans, stable temperatures, intact forests, and fresh air. If these integral systems become too polluted for salmon to live, we too will not be far behind.
Faced with these truths, the Wild Salmon Caravan also gave me significant hope. It was a time for people to share about how they envisioned a future where both humans and the salmon could survive and thrive. It provided a glimpse into a respect for the land as a teacher and as a relative. It lifted entrenched thinking and opened up space for reimagining what change could look like. The intent of the art in the Caravan called for creative energy not only in the costumes and puppets in the parades, but also in our thinking about how to shift our relationship with the ecosystems that we depend on and with each other through decolonizing relationships.
So many of us in this area have visited the Adam’s River in the fall to see the colours and wonder at the salmon who swim so long and far to spawn and die. We see bears pulling salmon out of the water and dragging them inland where their remains become integrated with the forest and trees. We look forward to sitting down to eat salmon, everyone having their own favourite way of preparing the pink, flaky and rich protein as a meal.
Joining the Wild Salmon Caravan is a way of learning more about the connections we have with this keystone species and voicing your support for their protection. Please consider coming to share your creativity and ideas, acknowledge our reliance on salmon, and celebrate the return of those who have made it home. More information about the Wild Salmon Caravan can be found on their website (wildsalmoncaravan.ca) or Facebook page (@wildsalmoncaravan).
KFPC’s monthly network meeting in September will be focused on the Wild Salmon Caravan. Join us from 5:30 – 7:30 PM on September 5 (140 Laburnum Street) and bring a dish to share in our legendary potluck!