By David F. Rooney
SHELTER BAY — Thursday’s release of eager juvenile sturgeon into the Columbia River not only brought Revelstoke students into direct contact with wild creatures, but introduced them to elements of native culture, too.
Members of the Sinixt tribe travelled here from the US to lead a drumming circle and a series of public prayers for the health of the Columbia River and the creatures that depend on it. The Sinixt, also known as the Lake People, lived along much of the river and the Arrow and Kootenay Lakes. However, unlike most native tribes they are regarded as extinct by the federal government, even though they are a recognized tribe south of the border.
Over the past number of years, Sinixts still living in British Columbia, as well as their American cousins, have been working to raise their profile here in Canada in hope of eventually gaining official status.
Certainly many of the school children from all three Revelstoke elementary schools and RSS who attended the annual release of hundreds of young white sturgeon into the river took the drumming ceremony and prayers very seriously.
And why not? Both cultures have a shared interest in the health of the river and the many living things that depend upon it.
BC Hydro finances the rearing of white sturgeon at the Freshwater Fisheries Kootenay Trout Hatchery for release into the Columbia River under the Columbia River Water Use Plan. This annual event draws together BC Hydro, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, along with the Revelstoke Rod and Gun Club.
White sturgeon are North America’s largest and longest-lived freshwater fish, reaching a maximum size of six metres (19 feet) and 682 kilograms (1,500 pounds). It is estimated that white sturgeon life expectancy can exceed more than a century. Current population estimates show that within the Canadian portion of the upper Columbia River basin approximately 50 adults reside in the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, with an additional 1,500 wild fish downstream of Hugh Keenlyside Dam in Castlegar. Researchers have recorded spawning, but have found very few young fish, indicating that few young sturgeon are surviving to adulthood.
Here are some photos from the event, many of them by Revelstoke photographer Sarah Mickel:
By David F. Rooney