The Columbia Salmon Festival last Saturday brought together the community, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, from near and far. The Shushwap and Ktunaxa Elders spoke clearly of our imperative to respect water, nature and each other. Their wisdom comes from a long history of living close to the land and of losing out.
While many people have unquestionably benefitted from the hydroelectric power and irrigation created by the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam 70 years ago, the salmon fishery that had existed for at least 10,000 years and had given the Shushwap and Ktunaxa spiritual and economic sustenance was eradicated overnight. At the time, politicians told them they would be compensated for their losses with tins of canned fish.
We are now in a new millennium and here in the Columbia Valley, we continue to grapple with finding a balance between economic prosperity, community well being, job creation, and the preservation of our natural environment. As local politicians jostle with each other for election in November, will they heed the Elders advice?