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'Namgis First Nation celebrates heritage and salmon amid open-net farm ban

A celebration was held in Victoria on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Dozens of members, elders and chiefs of 'Namgis First Nation gathered at the Mungo Martin House at the B.C. Museum in Victoria to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day and to celebrate wild Pacific salmon amid new legislation that could see the closure of open-net salmon farms on the B.C. coast by 2029.

On June 19, the federal government announced that open-net salmon farms off the B.C. coast due to claims that wild salmon contract diseases from farmed salmon, which has contributed in the population decline of wild salmon. The decision was applauded by environmental groups and First Nations, including 'Namgis, which is based in Alert Bay.

"We've been connected to the salmon since our time immemorial. As we all know, it's very important to us. It's supplied all our communities for years. We have a viable commercial fishery. We have cultural celebrations. The salmon is very important to us, and for us to be celebrating that salmon today is a good way to start this program off," said 'Namgis elected chief Victor Isaac.

Joined by delegates from both the federal and provincial governments, members shared songs, dances, and stories related to the 'Namgis peoples, and their relationship to salmon.

"I'm 82 years old, I talked to my dad, who told me about the salmon, he was born 1911. And my grandfather who was born in 1878, talked about our fishing. Talked about how in our rivers, all our rivers, how they've logged [around] them," said Chris Cook, a hereditary chief of Namgis' First Nation. "All First Nations up and down the coast, let us rebuild our rivers, let us build for our food."

He called on Vancouver Island tribes to have a sit down and discuss further initiatives to continue to support the wild salmon population.

"What I'd like to say to the to the First Nations of coastal people, come together with us. We have a creek in every tribal group from Alaska to the Fraser River. Come together so that we can make changes together, not just one at a time," he said.

Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
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