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News

Thursday, May 27, 2021 — Come down to the Noon's Creek Hatchery located in Port Moody, BC and put your hands on a 600-years old cedar tree that has been carved by Kwantlen First Nation artist Brandon Gabriel into a house post called “The Spirit of Kwikwetlem.”

This house post tells a history about the strong spirit and resilience of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) people and the sockeye salmon that the Nation carries their name from.

“Kwikwetlem” means “Red Fish Up the River” and refers to a unique run of sockeye that once thrived in the waters of their territory prior to occupation and the construction of the Coquitlam Dam. 

The Coquitlam River was so healthy with sockeye salmon that the Elders speak about how you could walk from bank to bank without getting your feet wet. Nowadays, great efforts are in place to restore the health of a salmon run that was destroyed by the construction of the Coquitlam Dam in 1905 and a stronger one in 1915.

 

Even by 1899, Kwikwetlem Chief Johnny was seeing the devastating impact that the new settlers were having in this area and he wrote a letter pleading for construction around the river to stop.

Nevertheless, the dam was built not only preventing the salmon from completing their life cycle but also burying Kwikwetlem’s winter village under water, displacing Kwikwetlem people from their ancestral territory to this day.

For those first few years, the Kwikwetlem families carried their sockeye relatives up and over the dam in baskets, until a gate was built, and the people were not allowed to pass through. But our ancestors are strong, and they keep our people and all our relations resilient. A few years ago, some Kwikwetlem folks headed up to the headwaters and to their great surprise, they discovered that their red fish had adapted to being landlocked and had survived!

Not only that, BC Hydro, Kwikwetlem and other community groups such as the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable are working together to restore the run of sockeye salmon and released fingerlings into the river, letting these babies make their journey to the ocean for the first time in over forty years.

Here is the proof that our ancestors are always there to call us home, and that the Kwikwetlem people remain true to the values of our ancestors of being stewards and protectors of the lands and waters. This keeps us strong, because even after generations and generations of these great-great-great-great-grandchildren salmon instinctively knew to come home, back up the river and towards the headwaters.

Come down to the hatchery and see this history carved into this cedar tree.

Know that today, when you are drinking water out of your taps, washing your clothes, and watering your garden that this water is sacred and comes from the ancestral territories of the Kwikwetlem people.

 

 Tasha Faye Evans is a Coast Salish dance and theatre artist living in what is currently known as Port Moody with her husband and two children. Her vision is to raise five house posts along Port Moody's Shoreline Trail in an exhibition called "In the Presence of Ancestors." The project will reassert the presence of the original caretakers of these Coast Salish lands and waters and stand for generations, reminding current residents of our responsibility to join the legacy of ancestors caring for the future of all of our relations.