With salmon returns at an all time low, ?Esdilagh First Nation Chief Roy Stump said more members are resorting to fishing on nearby lakes. In the winter some are even taking up ice fishing—something Stump said he has not seen before. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

With salmon returns at an all time low, ?Esdilagh First Nation Chief Roy Stump said more members are resorting to fishing on nearby lakes. In the winter some are even taking up ice fishing—something Stump said he has not seen before. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Every day is a prayer: Tsilhqot’in community prays for return of salmon

Situated along both sides of the Fraser River, ?Esdilagh has been impacted by low salmon numbers

?Esdilagh First Nation Chief Roy Stump remembers the last time he caught and harvested a salmon.

It was before the wildfires that devastated the Cariboo-Chilcotin region in 2017.

“We need to help them back from the ocean all the way to the spawning grounds,” he said at his community located along the Fraser River at Alexandria following their first water ceremony for the salmon on Sept. 2.

“This year there’s nothing, it’s the worst I’ve seen it.”

Before lining up one by one by the water, the Tsilhqot’in Nation members watched Cecil Grinder of Tl’etinqox (Anaham) demonstrate the ceremony at their traditional fishing grounds with twins Justin and Winston Bambrick through a jar of water collected from the Taseko River.

“This water here I pray to it, just like I’m going to get you here to do,” Grinder said.

“We need all your help, your prayers. The more people that pray and do all these ceremonies get stronger and stronger.”

Revered by Tsilhqot’in elders and ancestors, the twins are believed to be powerful for not just spiritual ceremonies but animals and anything that affects their way of life.

Read More: Tsilhqot’in Nation demands meeting with feds on declining Fraser River chinook stocks

“Everyday I’ve been doing a little prayer hoping that in future years the numbers come back higher,” Winston said of the salmon.

“I think the next two, three years are going to be very crucial and if nothing is done right away then I think it could be pretty detrimental, but we’ll wait and see.”

“We’ll hope for the best,” Justin added.

After dipping their hands in the Fraser River, members put it to their foreheads.

“It goes right through my body, and that’s what’s healing,” Grinder said, recalling how he mistakenly believed as a child it was swimming his grandparents and mother took him down to the river for.

He said he had not realized until he was older it was to purify their bodies through the water.

“Like smudging and praying and doing this water ceremony there’s no wrong way to do it,” he added.

Also helping to pray for the salmon were Tl’esqox (Toosey) Chief Francis Laceese and his son Peyal, who noted there are many Tsilhqot’in legends and songs specifically dedicated to salmon that are a vital source of food, culture and tradition.

“This is a big hardship for not only the food source but to practise that culture and lifestyle is missing in order to teach the young ones,” Laceese said of their salmon fisheries that have been now closed for a second year by the Tsilhqot’in National Government.

Read More: Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw chiefs purchase salmon from Skeena River

Once the water ceremony ended, members made the short drive back to the Ts’utanchuy Hummingbird Centre (youth/elder centre) for an outdoor barbecue of not salmon but steaks and beef burgers.

“I pray even more since 2017,” Stump said, adding he also prays for the land and other animals including moose. “Since then all my people are doing that more.”

A full closure of the sockeye and chinook fisheries in Tsilhqot’in territory was declared by the Tsilhqot’in Council of Chiefs in mid-August. This year’s Fraser River salmon sockeye run is expected to be the worst ever recorded.

Stump said they hope to hold such a water ceremony for the salmon each year now in late August.

“We have to help the salmon somehow by ceremonies, and it’s a powerful way,” he said, noting members are taking up lake fishing and even ice-fishing as they are left to rely on other First Nations — namely on B.C’s Coast and along the Skeena River to share their harvest of salmon with them.

“Our ancestors used to do that so we’re just keeping the tradition going and that’s a way we’re trying to get the fish back.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First NationsSalmon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Twins Justin and Winston Bambrick, 32, of Tl’etinqox (Anaham) participate in a salmon ceremony at ?Esdilagh (Alexandria) earlier this month. Tsilhqot’in elders believe twins hold power and strength. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Twins Justin and Winston Bambrick, 32, of Tl’etinqox (Anaham) participate in a salmon ceremony at ?Esdilagh (Alexandria) earlier this month. Tsilhqot’in elders believe twins hold power and strength. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation gathered at the Fraser River near ?Esdilagh to honour their ancestors and pray for the salmon during a traditional water ceremony held Sept. 2. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation gathered at the Fraser River near ?Esdilagh to honour their ancestors and pray for the salmon during a traditional water ceremony held Sept. 2. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Just Posted

Luke Lavigne of Clearwater is the 2020 recipient of the North Thompson Communities Foundation’s Donnie Nicholson Memorial Trades Bursary, and is shown here on Jan. 23 receiving the $1,500 cheque from NTCF treasurer Cheryl Thomas. (NTCF Facebook photo)
Clearwater’s Luke Lavigne awarded Donnie Nicholson Memorial Trades Bursary

Congratulations to Luke Lavigne of Clearwater, B.C., on the successful completion of… Continue reading

Williams Lake musicians Evan Jensen and LeRae Haynes continue to share songs through social media, something they started when the COVID-19 pandemic first began. (Photo submitted)
OUR HOMETOWN: Musical generosity abounds

A Williams Lake couple continue to share music through social media

The Canadian Cancer Society Office located inside the Williams Lake Seniors Activity Centre closed its doors this month after being notified the CCS would be moving to regional offices located across Canada. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Canadian Cancer Society closes office in Williams Lake

“I didn’t realize how hard it would hit me when it actually closed down,” Allan said.

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file
Williams Lake medevac flight encounters drone at Kelowna International Airport

The airport is a no-drone zone to keep aircraft safe at all times

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read