The Fraser River is the longest river in British Columbia, draining an area of 238,000 km in the central region of the province and flowing 1370 km from the Fraser Pass at Mount Robson, into the Georgia Straight at Vancouver. Named after Simon Fraser, who first descended it in 1808, the Fraser River is a major producer of B.C.’s salmon, and a key element to its forestry industry.
In order to highlight the Fraser’s history, culture and issues threatening its health, as well as discuss solutions, “FraserFEST” was created by the Rivershed Society of BC. On September 27th, which was World Rivers Day and the 25th anniversary of BC Rivers Day, the last of seven FraserFESTs took place at Whey-ah-Wichen / Cates Park, Tsleil Waututh / North Vancouver in conjunction with the 4th annual Salish Sea Gathering which was created to bring awareness to how the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion threatens the Fraser River and Salish Sea.
Early Sunday morning, a group of 72 paddlers and 10 cyclists met at Cates Park for a light breakfast, and to load up bikes before taking a shuttle to Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, where the cyclists mounted up to begin their 27 km route.
Cyclists headed east out of Port Moody along Burrard Inlet through Burnaby, crossed the 2nd Narrows Bridge over Burrard Inlet into North Vancouver, and then headed east along Dollarton Highway to the festival.
From Rocky Point, the paddlers, who were traveling in 34’ Voyageur canoes, were joined by over 30 First Nations paddlers in traditional canoes for the 10 km route to Tsleil-Waututh.
It was an idyllic west coast fall day with full sun and mild conditions. The 2-hour, 10 km paddle was enjoyed by all, and ended on the shores of Cates Park where the 4th annual Salish Sea Gathering was already underway. Canoeists remained seated, with paddles up, as First Nations customs were respected during a traditional welcoming ceremony with Rueben George welcoming the paddlers to Tsleil-Waututh, Coast Salish territory.
From the canoes, several leaders stood and spoke during the ceremony. One was indigenous artist and educator Khelsilem from Squamish Nation. Also offering words was Larry ‘Shucks’ Nahanee. Fin Donnelly, M.P. and Chairman, Rivershed Society of B.C. offered words of gratitude and spoke of the need to protect the mighty Fraser, which is on BC’s Endangered Rivers List. Donnelly swam the 1,400 km length of the Fraser in 1995, to draw attention to its plight. Since that time, the Society has been working to restore the health of the Fraser and its riversheds.
Four First Nation swimmers, Zoe George (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), Sara Hyland (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), Keely Weget-Whitney (St’at’imc Nation) and Brittany John (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), participated in the day’s events by crossing the Burrard inlet from the shore at Kinder Morgan to Whey-ah-Wichenin in the strong current. Keely is a graduate of the Rivershed Society’s leadership program and is a daughter of the T’it’q’et Chief of the St’at’imc Nation.
On shore and in recognition of Culture Days BC! the natural beauty of the surrounding, thriving, Coast Salish culture was celebrated. Performances were given by Locarno, Kimmortal, Buckman Coe, Children of Takaya, and Christie Lee Charles.
Hundreds of people took part in this year’s FraserFEST, with many signing a ‘Watershed Pledge’ showing their commitment to watershed conservation, protection and restoration (Watershed CPR).
During the 3-week long FraserFEST campaign, many people took part in similar excursions along the Fraser at Xatśūll, Lillooet, Yale, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Vancouver, and North Vancouver. In total there were 9 rafting days in the Fraser Canyon, 4 paddling trips on the Lower Fraser River, 3 group bicycle rides, 1 group walk, and 1 group swim. Featured speakers among these locations were Mark Angelo, David Suzuki, Charlene Aleck, Deb Sparrow, Chief Michelle Edwards, Mayor Marg Lampman, and Perry Redan. All the festivals included live music, salmon-themed food, activities for kids, and educational booths.
“Our first FraserFEST was a huge success and went beyond our expectations,” said Fin Donnelly. “We look forward to continuing our partnerships in 2016, and encourage others to become involved as we strive to protect the beauty and productivity of the Fraser River.”
Organizers wish to thank all the sponsors and partners of FraserFEST North Vancouver:
Partners: Trails BC, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust.
FraserFEST sponsors: Tides Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Metro Vancouver, New Westminster, Renewal, City of Vancouver, Greenest City, Black Press Community New Media, the West Ender, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Aaron Gordon Daykin Nordlinger, BC Hydro, Pasta Polo Restaurant, David Suzuki Foundation, New Pathways to Gold, the False Creek Harbour Authority – Fishermen’s Wharf, Clearline CPA, Wesgroup, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, Creative Transportation Solutions, and the Francis & Hawthorne Realty Team.
You can find more information about FraserFEST at: www.rivershed.com
About The Rivershed Society of BC
The Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC) formed in the wake of Fin Donnelly`s 1995 “Swim for Life” down BC’s longest river, the Fraser River. Since its inception in 1996, the RSBC has been actively delivering public education programs, community initiatives, and building stewardship capacity in the Fraser River Basin. The RSBC is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of the Fraser River Basin and all those who live within it.
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