By Haley Grinder
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Farmers and First Nation peoples local to the Columbia Valley met on Sunday, Oct. 17, at Upper Ranch to share food with the community, celebrate restoration efforts, and create awareness for future projects. The event ran from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., boasting a feast of donated meat and produce from local farmers and salmon donated from the Shuswap. They also invited those who attended to take a walk down to the creeks to see the work done firsthand. 

Maintained creek at Upper Ranch

Bringing the community together to feast helped “to get the farming and First Nations of the Valley together to celebrate working together on the restoration of the creeks,” says Dave Zehnder, project lead at Farmland Advantage, emphasizing the lasting positives of the initiative. “It is for the benefit of endangered fish populations and the future return of sea run salmon to the headwaters of the Columbia River.” 

The restoration project initially came to light in Nov. 2018, with the Ktunaxa Nation (Akisqnuk), Shuswap Indian Band, and Farmland Advantage meeting to discuss how farmers and First Nations could work together to develop concrete, long-lasting restoration projects from an ecological standpoint. The return of salmon and the recovery of endangered fish species local to the Columbia Valley was prioritized, with creek restoration at the forefront. Collectively, farmers and First Nations worked to build up water banks, clear debris, and ensure the many spawning streams weren’t at risk of blockage.

Hoop dance performance by Kye Jasek

The event, albeit primarily outdoors, abided by COVID-19 protocols, ensuring the registration desk was checking vaccination cards before entering. After which, the attendees and organizers gathered around a fire, where councilors and Chiefs had the floor to share, pray, and speak about the project’s importance. Those at the event were also able to participate in games and activities, like Bingo, and witness a hoop dance spectacle by Kye and Kaylie Jasek.

The Investment Agriculture Foundation recently took on a locally owned, Farmland Advantage, in order to run it as a long term program and achieve the best restoration results. They’re also thankful to be supported by Healthy Watersheds Initiative, delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and Watersheds B.C., with financial support from the Province of British Columbia as well.