“Just Like a Paradise”: Salmon River Estuary, Shuswap Lake, as a Cultural Keystone Place

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 17 March, 2016 - 11:30
, Nancy - University of Victoria
, Ann
, Bonnie
Van Tine Janzen
, Valerie

The late Secwepemc elder Dr. Mary Thomas of Neskonlith, was born and raised along Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm, spending much of her childhood around the Salmon River estuary. She and her siblings helped the elders harvest wapato, water parsnip, mint, berries, cattail leaves, hemp dogbane fibre, willow bark, and coot eggs, and process salmon. The place was rich in resources; many people gathered and camped together. A place where children learned lifelong lessons from stories and “by doing,” it has changed drastically over time. A railway and a highway were constructed above it. A lakeside marina altered the river course. Logging and agriculture upriver caused siltation, imperiling salmon. Livestock grazing and introduced species eliminated the wapato and other native vegetation. Despite ongoing threats, the estuary remains; through efforts the Neskonlith people, and others, restoration and revitalization of this rich environment continues; it remains today as a Cultural Keystone Place.