From the beginning of mankind, we have lived in close proximity to major waterways and rivers – they have sustained us. Our farms, communities and cities sprang up along the banks of rivers for access to drinking water, and water to irrigate our lands.
For thousands of years rivers have provided us with a stock of food that can be freshly caught in its waters or picked along its shores, and these water highways have transported humans, cargo and, unfortunately, our waste. We learned how to control rivers to capture their energy so that we could grind our flours and power our industrial factories. With all that rivers have provided us, we have not been the best stewards of sustainability for them. We have overfished, polluted and literally dammed some of them into non-existence.
Our early forbearers held many festivals to give thanks to the land and the rivers from whose bounty they thrived. The Fraser River is still one of the largest salmon-producing rivers in the world. Salmon was, and still is, the primary food source for many of the First Nations along our coast, and therefore the Fraser River and salmon have always been honoured and respected.
In many native cultures, salmon were thought to be superior beings who ran the rivers for the sustenance of the people, died, and then returned to life in a great house under the ocean where they danced and feasted in human form. In B.C. aboriginal legends, the salmon figure represents dependability and renewal, and is a symbol of abundance, wealth and prosperity – not unlike our rivers. It is no coincidence communities and cities that are built on large and healthy waterways tend to also have healthier financial foundations with more abundance of wealth and prosperity to go around.
Today’s communities may not be as aware of their waterways as they once were, but they are still very reliant on them. Even now there are opportunities to celebrate the watershed you live in, and learn what you can do to make it sustainable.
For the past decade, the last Sunday in September has been World Rivers Day, where people around the world come together to celebrate their rivers. For those of us living in communities along the banks of Fraser River we have FraserFEST, a series of community festivals hosted by The Rivershed Society of B.C. Participants are invited to come celebrate the watershed in which they live while enjoying local entertainment and food.
Seven FraserFEST festivals are taking place from Sept. 7-27, in communities from Xatśūll to North Vancouver. In the spirit of World Rivers Day, many of the FraserFEST festivals are co-hosted with other festivals such as Salmon in the Canyon in Lillooet, RiverFest in New West and the Salish Sea Gathering in North Vancouver. Salmon barbecues are lined up with local family entertainment and appearances by conservation and environmental speakers David Suzuki, Mark Angelo and Fin Donnelly. Between festivals, participants will have the opportunity to take part in nine days of rafting, four days of paddling, three group bicycle rides, and one group walk. The festivals include live music, a First Nations drumming/singing group, food, a children’s play zone and educational booths.
FraserFEST Festival Highlights:
• Sept 7: Xatśūll Heritage Site, performances by Synergy and Marin Patenaude.
• Sept. 13: Lillooet, Salmon in the Canyon Festival.
• Sept. 16: Yale, Fraser River Rafts HQ.
• Sept. 20: Coquitlam, Colony Farm Regional Park, speakers Mark Angelo and Fin Donnelly. Entertainment byThe Wilds with Holly Arntzen and Kein Wright.
• Sept. 24: New Westminster Quay, RiverFest, speakers Mark Angelo and Fin Donnelly. Entertainment by Art Napoleon, The Wilds with Holly Arntzen and Kein Wright, and the Up Your Watershed! Choir.
• Sept. 26: Vancouver, False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf, speakers David Suzuki and Fin Donnelly. Entertainment by Kinnie Starr, Scott Shea and The Wilds with Holly Arntzen and Kein Wright.
• Sept. 27: North Vancouver, Cates Park, Salish Sea Gathering. Entertainment by Buckman Coe.
For more information on FraserFEST or The Rivershed Society, go to rivershed.com or #FraserFEST on Twitter.