By Nicole Trigg
A fish-friendly festival is taking over Kinsmen Beach tomorrow when the 4th annual Columbia Salmon Festival returns on Saturday, September 13th.
Its a mix of musical acts, local groups, story telling, and people speaking on the importance of salmon to the region, to First Nations, and the way with the dams that were built with the Columbia River Treaty that the salmon lifestyle was impacted, Ktunaxa Nation Council communications manager Jesse Nicholas told The Pioneer.
The mission of the festival is to inform people about the history and future of salmon in the upper Columbia, and their cultural significance. Nowadays, many people in the valley have forgotten the role that salmon played in the Upper Columbia prior to the construction of Grand Coulee dam in 1942, states the festival website.
Although the Chinook salmon are gone from the Columbia Valley, they have been replaced ecologically by kokanee salmon. The Columbia Salmon Festival is being held at the height of the kokanee salmon run during which time they turn bright red, and can be easily spotted in waterways throughout the valley.
To celebrate both the salmon that have been lost and the kokanee salmon that are still in the local river system, the festival will feature a number of highlights locals and visitors wont want to miss.
Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teenese is taking time out of her busy schedule to make some opening remarks at 11 a.m. when the fest kicks off with a traditional First Nations prayer, followed by the engaging live music of Rosie Brown on a stage set up in the greenspace next to Pynelogs.
Shortly after noon, festival-goers will become acquainted with the Ktunaxa Nation Creation Story as told by renowned St. Marys Indian Band storyteller Joe Pierre Jr.
Hes done some training at the Banff Institute, said Mr. Nicholas. Hes a great storyteller.
Then live music throughout the afternoon will definitely prove to be one of the main attractions of the day, with trendy East Kootenay bands like 60 Hertz and Good Ol Goats taking to the lakeside stage between 1 and 3 p.m.
During the event, a salmon pavilion will be set up under the beachside shelter across the road with informative presentations and talks on the history of the salmon and the challenges they face.
Anyone interested in aboriginal culture wont want to miss the Ktunaxa Dance Troupe perform from 3:20 to 3:50 p.m. Make sure you bring your camera to capture the beautiful, brightly coloured traditional outfits.
Then, although closing remarks at 4 p.m. will signal the end of the Kinsmen Beach gathering, the festival will continue for a few more hours in south Windermere at the site of the Akisqnuk band office facility just off Highway 93/95.
Here, starting at 5 p.m. the public is invited to partake in a delicious wild salmon feast followed by a pow wow. While there are wooden bleachers to sit on, people can also bring chairs and blankets to settle into while watching the dancing. Some of the dances will be public, which the master of ceremonies will invite the public to join.
There will be a box for donations, but the pow wow and the feast are complimentary, Mr. Nicholas said. Theres no cost associated with attending, its a completely open event. Everyone is welcome, dont be shy.
Donations will also be collected at the festival on Kinsmen Beach, where salmon nerd shirts and plushy salmon toys for kids will be available for purchase.
All funds raised will go directly towards salmon restoration projects.
Its just a fun time for the family to get out, have some fun and learn some cool stuff about salmon, said Mr. Nicholas.
To learn even more, visit www.columbiasalmonfest.ca or visit the Facebook page ColumbiaSalmonFestival for the most up-to-date information.