“The River is sacred. People will put aside their differences when it comes to the River and bringing back the salmon.”
– the late Virgil Seymour (1958 – 2016) Arrow Lakes (Sinixt) Facilitator for The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
The May 13 “One River – Ethics Matter” conference opened with a welcome and call from Revelstoke’s Mayor, Mark McKee, for all people to work together on behalf of the Columbia River. The day was truly remarkable for bringing together Upper Columbia River Basin’s First Nations, religious leaders, and community leaders and volunteers in respectful dialogue on the past and future of the Columbia River.
Free-flowing Columbia River, at Revelstoke B.C. – site of the 4th in the series of international conferences, “One River – Ethics Matter.” Prior conferences were held in Spokane, Portland, and Boise. In 2018, the fifth conference will be in Montana.
Some of the more memorable messages:
- We do this work – returning the salmon and restoring the waters of the Upper Columbia – for our kids.
- Indigenous people have been here from time immemorial, and we’ll continue to be here forever.
- Churches and houses of worship are also symbols of community – and destroying or moving churches with the Treaty dams underscored the wrenching impacts on the people of the Upper Columbia.
- Indigenous language carries meaning that is deeply important.
- C. public schools have made major advances in environmental education.
- All of us need more water rituals in our daily lives.
- We all need to work together for the River and return of salmon.
First Nation and tribal leadership included Bonnie Leonard (Secwepemc), Sandra Luke (Ktunaxa), Chief Chad Eneas and Rosalie Wilson-Yazzie (Okanagan Nation Alliance), and D.R. Michel (Sinixt, Upper Columbia United Tribes), along with policy experts Bill Green (Canadian Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission) and Jay Johnson (Okanagan Nation Alliance).
Faith leadership included Anglican Archbishop John Privett, Roman Catholic Bishop John Corriveau, and Rev. Greg Powell of the Kootenay Presbytery.
Scholars and educators included Jeannette Armstrong (En’owkin Centre, Syilx scholar), Angus Graeme (President, Selkirk College), and Ariel McDowell (Principal of Aboriginal Education, School District 19).
This is the fourth in a conference series entitled “One River – Ethics Matter” that examines the moral dimensions of the dam-building era with a focus on First Nations (Canada) and Indian tribes (U.S.), and the river and life that depends on the river.
Earlier conferences explored the profound effects of dams from Grand Coulee upstream on tribes and First Nations; how protecting flood plain settlement and development in the Portland area has come at the cost of permanently flooding river valleys and native homelands upstream; and re-licensing of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon Complex of dams to provide passage for salmon now blocked from returning to the upper Snake River. The Revelstoke conference focused on the catastrophic change that came with permanently flooding the immense river valleys of interior British Columbia as part of the Columbia River Treaty ratified in 1964.
The One River – Ethics Matter conference series is coordinated by the Ethics & Treaty Project. The project is jointly hosted by CELP and Sierra Club.
Additional Revelstoke Links
Revelstoke Conference hosts:
North Columbia Environmental Society, Mir Centre for Peace, Selkirk College, Okanagan College Faculty Association
Revelstoke Conference sponsors:
Joan Craig, MD * Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson * Archbishop John Privett, Anglican Diocese of Kootenay * Ktunaxa Nation Council * Upper Columbia United Tribes * Laurie Arnold PhD * North Columbia Environmental Society * Sierra Club BC * Yellowstone to Yukon * Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southwestern Washington Synod * Citizens for a Clean Columbia * Columbia Institute for Water Policy * Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Washington State Chapter * Sierra Club, Washington State Chapter * Tom Soeldner & Linda Finney * Center for Environmental Law & Policy * Rachael & John Osborn