“[The Wild Salmon Caravan] is intended to be a celebration of the spirit of wild salmon. When we get together to talk about these issues it can be overwhelming. There are so many dark and serious aspects to it that we wanted celebration to help people respond to the issues with strength and resiliency through arts, culture, and ceremony.”
-Dawn Morrison, Co-Organizer and Founder, Wild Salmon Caravan
Dawn Morrison, Director of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty for the BC Food Systems Network, in collaboration with Sto’lo Elder Eddie Gardner of the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance, created the Wild Salmon Caravan in 2015. In its first year, the caravan symbolically travelled the salmon’s migration path from Lheidli T’enneh Territory to traditional Coast Salish Territory, otherwise known as Vancouver, visiting 8 communities along the way.
The purpose of the Wild Salmon Caravan is to raise awareness of the social, cultural and ecological values of wild salmon and revitalize inter-tribal relationships between the 27 nations of Indigenous peoples. In addition, the caravan aims to highlight the traditional Indigenous knowledge and methods of ecosystem governance, with a focus on the wild salmon population.
Now entering its second year, the Wild Salmon Caravan is growing and gathering new participants and supporters who share concerns for the future of this cherished food in the face of threats such as climate change, pollution of waterways, fish farms, and industrial fisheries. As momentum builds, organizing committees are forming in communities throughout BC, from Mount Robson to Vancouver Island, to support the caravan, and host local events.
The caravan is also attracting new supporters like the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) who affirm the importance of salmon as a primary food source for many First Nations communities and a significant cultural determinant of health and wellbeing. The FNHA supports community-driven, nation-based initiatives that align with their vision of healthy, self-determining and vibrant BC First Nations children, families and communities.
“Traditional food sources for First Nations communities are a fabric of our cultural, spiritual, social, physical, mental, and emotional health and wellness,” said Sonia Isaac-Mann, Executive Director of Community Health and Wellness Services with the FNHA. “From ceremony to harvest, preservation and consumption, each step connects us to our territories and our ancestral ways of maintaining good health.”
The community gatherings will involve a fusion of music, storytelling, feasting, ceremony, film, and performance art. Colourfully decorated vehicles and bicycles will journey the caravan route once again, as the wild salmon do year after year. Celebrating the spirit of wild salmon in such a creative, integrated, and culturally-appropriate way resonates with Dawn’s take on food and health as she describes,
“Food isn’t just a product. An indigenous holistic health model is more fully aware of how food is grown, harvested, shared, handled, preserved, and so on. When we see food as a lifeless product it loses nutritional and spiritual value.”
Salmon can teach us a lot about strength, resilience, and working together – and provide a powerful metaphor for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous coalitions and communities bringing the Wild Salmon Caravan to life.
Key Outcomes and Impacts
- Revitalizing ancient traditional practices, protocols, and knowledge systems for managing our social and ceremonial relationships wild salmon and waters in sustainable ways
- Bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous communities throughout BC on an issue of shared value, concern and significance
- Expanding understandings of food, health, and ecosystems to include indigenous perspectives
- Humans and communities, like schools of salmon, need to work together to increase capacity to respond to the many serious economic and environmental issues impacting the land and food system
- Building momentum and gathering support in communities is made possible by the affordances of the internet as well as on the ground food networks
- Celebration and collective action can increase awareness of the important role that wild salmon plays in maintaining health and integrity of the land and food system
- Calling on regional committees in individual communities to self organize is an effective and sustainable way to build capacity for an initiative
Key Partners and Funders
- First Nations Health Authority
- Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance
- Adams Lake Indian Band
- Kamloops Food Policy Council
- Vancouver Park Board
- Grandview Woodland Food Connection
- Still Moon Arts Society
- Vancouver Society of Storytelling
- Cafe Rebelde Arts Collective – Ayotzinapa Solidarity Group
- Right to Food Zine
- Artists Response Team
- BC Food Systems Network
For more information about this initiative
- Crowdfunding for the Wild Salmon Caravan
- Wild Salmon Caravan on Facebook (updates and a full website will be posted here)
- Video: Wild Salmon Caravan “The Salmon Will Hear Our Songs”