A large group of Revelstokians, both young and old, watched on this morning (June 14) as a group of Sinixt and Secwépemc paddlers launched canoes from the shore to begin a seven-day journey down the great Columbia River.
The Sx̌ʷnítkʷ Canoe Journey started in Revelstoke and will take the more-than 40 paddlers down the river toward the site of Kettle Falls near the Canadian-U.S. border.
The annual journey was established in 2016 as a collaborative effort between the Upper Columbia United Tribes, Inchelium Language & Culture Association, Colville Confederated Tribes, Coeur D’Alene Tribe, Spokane Tribe of Indians, The Kalispel Tribe, and the Kootenay Tribe of Idaho.
The event was designed to ‘breathe new life into the traditional art of Dugout Canoe building while also spotlighting important initiatives like fish passage and the ecological clean up and protection of the Columbia River’.
The falls were an important salmon fishing site on the Columbia River near the Canada-U.S. border. In 1940, the site was permanently flooded by damming in the region.
Shelley Boyd, an Arrow Lakes member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, spoke to the many school children who attended the event, explaining the purpose of the journey and the importance of the salmon who used to swim the Columbia River.
The canoes, named Crying Salmon and Coyote Head, are made from 800-year-old trees. According to Boyd, Crying Salmon is named as an homage to the loss of the salmon in the Columbia River due to human interference, namely, the many dams that have been put in place over the last century.
Cultural singing accompanied the launch of the four canoes, alongside one small motorized boat and a larger Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation enforcement boat.
The journey will take the paddlers from Revelstoke to Nakusp, then further south into Nelson where a homecoming will be held on June 18. Finally, the paddlers will arrive in Kettle Falls on June 20 where celebrations will be held.