The beginning of their return

By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The three governments of these First Nations have banded together with the government of Canada and British Columbia to form the Columbia River Salmon Restoration Initiative (CRSRI) colloquially known as Bringing the Salmon Home. It aims to build on the unique values, responsibilities, and authorities of the above five governments. The official ceremony marking this letter of agreement was held on July 29, 2019, in Castlegar, B.C.

One of the unique elements about this work we are doing is that this is an Indigenous-led collaboration of the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations, with the Governments of British Columbia and Canada,” says Mark Thomas of the Shuswap Nation and Chair of the Executive Working Group for Bringing the Salmon Home. “This visionary agreement between the five governments is to explore all the options to reintroduce salmon into the Upper Columbia River region that have not seen salmon for the last eighty-two years.” This initiative is still in its infant stage. The days of turning a blind eye are over as this initiative has a clear long-term vision to work united exploring the feasibility and options for reintroducing salmon into the Canadian side of the Columbia River. 

The CRSRI aims to replenish stocks of salmon for Indigenous food, social and ceremonial needs. It is also their goal to benefit the region’s residents and its ecosystems. All the decision making is a collaborative effort between these five governments to ensure the best outcome of this salmon restoration initiative. The steps being taken include the establishment of the Indigenous-led governance process so we can work together and coordinate our actions,”says Thomas.Our working groups include the Indigenous Knowledge Counsel, which provides cultural guidance for our work; the Technical Working Group which brings together Indigenous Knowledge and western science in the technical reintroduction research; the Implementation Team which guides the daily work, the Communications Advisory Group and the Indigenous Nation-based Outreach and Engagement Team.  

Part of this agreement is a long list of principles which includes Indigenous leadership. This initiative acknowledges that Indigenous communities and their leaders must be involved in it. They are encouraged to be significantly engaged and demonstrate their role as community leaders in a collaborative effort to reintroduce anadromous salmon to the region of the upper Columbia River. The five governments of CRSRI are committed to making key decisions in a time-sensitive manner.  They recognize the interconnectedness of the Columbia River system and its significance. With a coordinated approach between them their aim is to study the connection between various social-ecological components and anadromous salmon. In the pursuit to bring the salmon home CRSRI moves forward with transparent leadership, accountability, and a strong governance.

With such a decline in salmon over the last century and the impact it has had on different Indigenous communities there is a sense of urgency to bring them home. This Indigenous-led initiative implements actions based on collaboration and consensus with the support of traditional Indigenous knowledge and available science. CRSRI recognizes the need to act promptly, decisively, and without delay in their efforts to bring the salmon home. One of the efforts will be through education and awareness.

CRSRI’s second annual Bringing Home the Salmon Festival will take place virtually on May 3 and 4. This festival is set to show the power and significance of salmon while uniting diverse communities with a shared goal of bringing them back to the upper Columbia River. Drumbeats from within each Nation carry this message through prayer, story, and song. To learn about this event see the article about the Bringing Home the Salmon festival in this edition.  

“There’s going to be many cultural presentations, and leadership discussions this year and what it will mean moving forward,” says Thomas. “I encourage people to check out the full listing at This festival is not just for us, it’s for everyone!”