Aboriginal Centre brings students to traditional Salmon Feast
October 5th, 2017
The Salmon Feast hosted by The Okanagan Nation Alliance is more than just a sumptuous banquet
From September 15 to the 17, people from across British Columbia gathered at Okanagan Falls for the annual Salmon Feast. The weekend-long ceremony has revitalized a traditional event that has been prominent in Syilx culture for decades and celebrates the Syilx culture and customs through drumming, singing, dancing, and the oral sharing of stories, as well as many other activities that transpire over the span of the three days.
For the Syilx Okanagan Nation, the ceremony and feasting that take place are central activities of the event. The Salmon Feast itself was held on Sunday around noon, with the songs and teachings being sung while those participating in the ceremony lined up for a piece of Salmon before officially beginning the feast.
The setting of the feast, the Okanagan falls, is a culturally significant site and an important ancestral fishing and trading ground for the Syilx people. The Feast is held in honour of Chief Salmon, one of the Four Food Chiefs, and demonstrates the importance of the sockeye salmon, a primary food source for generations.
A plaque near the river owes the success of Skaha Lake and the Okanagan River to the devotion of the Okanagan Nation in their “inherent responsibilities to restore and protect its salmon fisheries [and] ensure the survival of the Okanagan Nation Sockeye for the benefit of our people today, and future generations,” as stated by Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Syilx leaders present at the ceremony shared their views and communicated the significance of protecting “our peoples, lands, resources and sacred waters
However, the Salmon Feast is also “a connection to our ancestors,” says Pauline Terbasket, the Executive Director of the Okanagan Nation Alliance in charge of the event. It is not only a celebration of place and space but “it’s the sharing of this history with others,” she says pointing out into the crowd, “this is part of the perpetuation of culture and shared learning.”
As Terbasket explained, it’s a manifestation of “our culture, our language, our title, our rights, and our ceremonies. The sharing of our Indigenous culture through what others may see as just an event, for us as Syilx, is much, much more in embracing [our] traditions, such as the Salmon Feast. [We] are being strengthened by our very witnessing, sharing in the experience, and the deep relationships and links we have [built] by hearing our nsyilxcen language and teachings – our nationhood that was nearly lost, if not severely disrupted throughout contact and colonization.”
The Syilx leaders present at the ceremony shared their views and communicated the significance of protecting “our peoples, lands, resources and sacred waters,” Terbasket added – a reminder that should resonate with all peoples.