The Columbia River knows no borders

Principally, the presentation centered on the mission of amending legislation and modernizing the Columbia River Treaty.

  • Jul. 6, 2015 6:00 p.m.

RYAN WILLMAN

Arrow Lakes News

A thunderous bang from the drum brought the audience to their feet and the shock wave of sound resonated through the space of the Bonnington leaving a reverent silence it its wake. After a pregnant pause, the sound void was shattered by a spirituous honor song performed by four members of the Incheliam First Nations band on their drum, whose names translates to “handsome” from the Siniext language.

The group traveled from their home south of the border along with several other concerned members of their consortium to open the planned presentation and discussion regarding the always-controversial Columbia River.

After the last notes of the honor song died away, Sharon Montgomory, curator of the Naksup Museum, welcomed the guests and introduced members of the Coleville Reservation from Washington — producers of the documentary Treaty Talks: A Journey up the Columbia River for People and Salmon, and representatives of the Upper Columbia United Tribe union (UCUT).

“They have all joined us today,” Montgomory said, “because they have been working with Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana states to bring the salmon home to Nakusp. They are here to open a dialogue and share information about the work they are doing.”

Principally, the presentation centered on the mission of amending legislation and modernizing the Columbia River Treaty to allow for the passage of salmon past the industrial barriers at Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams in Washington, thereby reintroducing the species to upper waters that were cut off when the river was dammed. The presence of the Colville tribes and UCUT resonated with a strong cultural and traditional based argument for the passage of salmon to upper waters and these groups have been instrumental in the last ten years with their efforts to influence American policies.

Joining the presentation was Adam Wicks, an environmentalist and educational entrepreneur who helped establish the Voyages of Rediscovery canoe program in the United States. Wicks screened his film Treaty Talks, which documented a journey he took with his companions in traditional dugout canoes from the mouth of the Columbia River near Portland all the way to its source at Canal Flats. Wicks also spoke about traditional and ecological perspectives of the river reasoning, “the river knows no border” and, “we share a number of the same issues and commonalities which sometimes get forgotten when there is a border.”

Wicks also called for a modernization of the Columbia River Treaty and spoke of a future where people from Nakusp can one day fish for sockeye salmon instead of just small kokanee.

“That would be huge for the people to experience the river like that,” Wicks explained,  “but it would even bigger for the environments and the ecology of the river. Issues with nutrients, but bringing the salmon back would lay the foundations for marine derived nutrients because the salmon are keystone species and would affect every other facet of the river.”

Two representatives from UCUT continued the conversation with data and reports chronicling their fight to preserve the cultural and environmental interests of the five tribes they have gathered under their banner. The group is currently in phase one of their salmon reintroduction proposal, which includes 11 objectives and 36 tasks designed to gather sufficient background information on scientific feasibility, possible coast and habitat potential. UNCUT did not specify the number of phases they expect to complete before their proposal of the reintroduction of anadromous fish is complete.

 

The consortium has presented to community members in Nelson and Grand Forks, and plans to continue their presentation tour with visits to Revelstoke and Golden.

 

 

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