Submitted by Shuswap Band

In a sign of unity in Invermere, on May 24 the Shuswap Band Chief and Council, staff, and membership gathered with participants for the Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Okanagan Nations to release nearly 1700 sockeye salmon fry into Lake Windermere. 

The ceremony included prayers, songs, and speeches to honour the importance of salmon in Indigenous culture and to the ecology of the river. Salmon Chief Mark Thomas led the ceremony alongside Youth Salmon Chief Devin Capilo.

This release is part of an ongoing effort to reintroduce salmon into the Columbia River Basin, where salmon have not been seen in over 85 years due to the dams blocking their migratory routes. 

The lack of salmon has had severe impacts on communities that rely on them for survival, including the loss of language, culture, health, economy, knowledge transfer, identity and self worth. The ceremony aimed to “Call the Salmon Home” and strengthen the many communities’ connection with this vital resource.

The first release gave Elders the opportunity to handle the fish, as they have felt the impact of the salmon’s absence the longest. This year, more spectators and participants were invited to participate and witness the event, including 160 students from Kimberley and Windermere Schools, who have been participating in the Fish in School (FinS) program. 

Each school had an aquarium with 100 salmon eggs to raise from January until now. We are very grateful to the students for their great care for the fish and the opportunity to engage in a cultural manner. 

It was very moving to see the interactions with the students and the culture being taught to them. The gratitude and respect the students showed displayed their reverence for what they were learning and what they’ve accomplished as stewards.

Kukstéc-kuc to everyone who made this event possible, including: Braydi Rice for leading the event coordination and all Shuswap Band staff involved in planning; support provided by the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council; the attendance of Secwépemc, Okanagan, and Ktunaxa Elders, youth, and Knowledge Keepers; the ONA Hatchery for providing the 1500 salmon fry and 200 eggs to FinS that were ultimately released; local dignitaries who attended; our donors who helped fund the event and make it possible; and everyone else who were present to see this historic event unfold.

Winning logo by Michael Fisher.