As World Rivers Day (Sept 25, 2022) and Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Sept. 30, 2022) approach, we are pleased to share this important news from our recent Youth Salmon Warriors Gathering:
We have come to the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River from our strong, Secwépemc, syilx Okanagan, and Ktunaxa Nations where we have created true connections and honour one another.
We are here as salmon’s witness.
Our sacred relative has been gone from these waters for too long but even still, their spirit is here because we are here, and we will never stop fighting for their right to come home.
These powerful words open the Youth Salmon Warriors Statement created by young people from the Secwépemc, syilx Okanagan, and Ktunaxa Nations as part of their historic tri-Nation gathering at the headwaters of the Columbia River, August 19-23, 2022.
For five days, 21 young people from the Ktunaxa, syilx Okanagan and Secwépemc Nations gathered together for the first annual Bringing the Salmon Home—Youth Salmon Warriors Gathering.
The young people were supported by elders, knowledge keepers and leaders from each of the Nations. Creative facilitators Sofia Terbasket-Funmaker and Xastitkw Michel used IndigenEYEZ processes to guide the young people in building strong connections with each other and the salmon.
“We created connections that we didn’t know we were going to make. We’ve made friendships we didn’t know we were going to make. And, for the future, those connections are what are going to bring back the salmon, what’s going to bring back our culture, what’s going to bring back our language, what’s going to bring back everything. Because we were never just one Nation surrounded by other Nations – we were intermingling together, we spoke each other’s languages, we listened to each other’s creation stories,” reflects syilx Okanagan Nation member Morgan Rashke.
It’s been more than 80 years since salmon, blocked by dams, have returned to the source of the river. As part of their journey to bring salmon home, the young people learned how to can Columbia River-Okanagan sockeye salmon provided by the syilx Okanagan Nation.
And then, in a deeply moving ceremony, they returned the salmon remains to the river.
Ktunaxa Nation member Martina Escutin emphasizes, “You know, our languages aren’t extinct – they’re sleeping, and they’re waking up. And our salmon aren’t extinct from the Columbia River – they’re coming home.”
Secwépemc Nation member Nikeshia Harry adds, “The youth are strong and we have a lot of perseverance. And this knowledge that we’ve learned we’ll continue to integrate throughout our lives.”
This first Youth Salmon Warriors Gathering was a powerful success, and opens the way for annual gatherings going forward.
We are standing up for our salmon and we are raising our voices for the people to hear:
Put aside politics and keep our salmon and us young people at the centre because we can show you the way.
Because we are walking forward with the truth in our hearts that our salmon are coming home.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO MAKING THIS GATHERING SUCH A SUCCESS!