The Adams River sockeye (sqleltenuw̓i) have held an important place in the lives of the Secwepemc (pronounced se-hwep-muhc) people of the Shuswap Lakes and Adams Lake (Cstelen – hiss-tal-in) for thousands of years. “Our ancestors would tell stories of the river being red with sockeye. There were so many that you could walk across the river on their backs.” The large sockeye run provided a main source of food with many of the fish being smoked and dried to be eaten over the winter.
To ensure the sustainability of the salmon, the Secwepemc relied on one of their core values, k̓wseltktnews. K̓wseltktnews can be translated as, we are all related. This value was demonstrated through being ecologically responsive to the dynamic interconnections between all living beings, including waters, the plants, the animals, humans, birds, and fish. The oral tradition of stsptekwle helps teach the younger generations about their responsibility to maintaining balance within themselves and the earth.
Click on this link to learn about the legend of Coyote and the Salmon as told by Elder Lawrence Michel.
In the last 20 years the stocks have declined dramatically, causing concern for the Secwepemc people.
Wild salmon are facing multiple threats including: reduced stream flow, increased water extraction, climate change, pollution, logging, invasive species, urbanization, fish farms, dams, and genetic manipulation (David Suzuki Foundation, 2006). Recent threats of expanding pipelines, pose a threat to our waterways and have the potential to affect salmon directly and indirectly. Impacts include gill damage and smothering, reduced feeding, habitat loss/damage, food chain and ecosystem toxicity (Raincoast Conservation Foundation, n.d.).
The sockeye are known as tenacious fighters who are able to fight their way upstream to get to their spawning beds. Unfortunately, they may not be able to withstand any more pressures of this modern age.
Secwepemc people have lived in South-Central B.C. for thousands of years. The traditional territory of the Secwepemc is called the Secwepemculecw. It covers over 180,000 square kilometers, from the Columbia River valley along the Rocky Mountains, west to the Fraser River, and south to the Arrow Lakes in the Kootenays. The Secwepemc territory once included 30 bands with only 17 remaining today.
Bands were united by their common language, Secwepmectsin, and their shared values centered on k̓wseltktnews. To learn more about the Secwepemc language, visit www.chiefatahm.com.
Grand Chief Felix Arnouse, Elders James August and Ralph Mc Bryan
Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band
Matthew, M. & Morrison, D. (2017). Wild Salmon Caravan. See wildsalmoncaravan.ca