Salmon Ceremony with Shelly Boyd and Sinixt People

Salmon Ceremony with Shelly Boyd and Sinixt People

Conservation Northwest / Jun 23, 2021 / Columbia Highlands, Colville Wild, First Nations, Protecting Wildlands, Work Updates

Indigenous people aren’t waiting for government to act to restore salmon to the Upper Columbia River, they’re taking the lead.

By Chase Gunnell, Communications Director
Shelly Boyd speaks during a Sinixt Salmon Ceremony at Kettle Falls. Photo: Mitch Friedman

Last weekend, our Executive Director Mitch Friedman had the honor of participating in a Salmon Ceremony at Kettle Falls (presently covered by the reservoir of Lake Roosevelt) with members of the Sinixt People, one of the 12 Tribes of the Colville confederation.

Salmon have been blocked from naturally accessing this stretch of the Columbia River watershed since the construction of Grand Coulee Dam 80 years ago. Yet, thanks to Indigenous leadership, a new chapter in their story is just beginning.

The Upper Columbia United Tribes are leading efforts to truck adult Chinook over downstream dams, and redds (salmon nests) and smolts were documented in the nearby Sanpoil River this spring. Researchers are now monitoring the outmigration of these juvenile salmon to determine if they can make it to the ocean, and whether further “trap-and-haul” programs could restore naturally-spawning salmon populations to the Upper Columbia river

The Salmon Ceremony and associated Canoe Journey was led by Shelly Boyd, a Sinixt leader and Colville tribal member, who we’re working closely with to craft a grassroots plan to permanently protect wild areas, Indigenous cultural heritage sites, and responsible recreation opportunities across northeast Washington.

Shelly spoke movingly about the need to preserve Indigenous culture and advance Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) by teaching ecology through story and ceremony. Shelly called upon Mitch to offer his thoughts during the ceremony, which is maybe the first time Mitch has been at a loss for words.

THANK YOU, Shelly, we’re so honored to work with you and your community!

Indigenous people and local allies including Mitch Friedman, our Executive Director. carry canoes during the Salmon Ceremony and Canoe Journey stop. Photo: Shelly Boyd