Keeping history alive

Three short documentaries shown at the Burton Community Centre on Feb. 12.

The past and presence of Native life converged at the Burton Community Centre on Feb. 10 as three short documentaries were shown about Native life before the dams went up as part of the Columbia River Treaty in the 1960s.

The first one was Mountain Caribou Hunting Story.

Running about ten minutes long, it featured a Native man sitting in his chair at home, telling the story of his uncle finding nests of caribou horns up in the trees near Revelstoke when he was about 15. He didn’t have a camera at the time, but wantedto come back to the spot one day.

He went off to fight in WWII, but by the time he came back, the forest he found them in had been completely cut down.

The second film was called The Journey Upstream: The past and presence of an “extinct” people.

The film’s focus was on the Sinixt people, but it acknowledged it is not the only group with ties to the Arrow Lakes.

After the border between the United States and Canada was settled, the Sinixt territory wound up being divided between the two countries. Many Sinixt wound up living in the U.S., and if you weren’t around to register for the Indian Act, you didn’t qualify for Indigenous status.

After the last person on the reserve died in 1953, the Sinixt were declared extinct. Many Sinixt returned to their home territories in the 1980s when word got out that the acestral homes would be turned into a picnic ground and watering hole.

One of the Sinixt involved in the documentary was in attendance, and thought it was important that these films were shown.

“We have to rectify the history here, because our presence here is incomplete,” said Cliff Woffenden. “Without the people here,and without the salmon, and without the true story of what happened here, this is all a lie as far as I’m concerned.”

Woffenden said the truth about what happened needs to come out, because not knowing can eat away at the generations tofollow.

“I really believe that we’re living in a time when the truth is coming out about a whole lot of things that have been hidden, notjust here, but everywhere.”

The final documentary was Treaty Talks. It focused on the journey of a group who followed the original salmon spawning route, from the mouth of the ocean to the Columbia River all 1,243 km of it.

The journey was made in five canoes carved and paddled by Native and non-Native youth.

The documentary highlights the positive efforts of Columbia River citizens working to restore historic salmon runs.

In total, the trip took about 89 days to complete.

Those in attendance of the documentaries found them to be enlightening.

“I think knowledge is power,”said Lori Lounsbury. “I think we focus so much on the environment out here that we want toreally know what happened, and do what we can to make it better, and maybe pay for past mistakes somehow.”