What becomes of “Salmon People” without Salmon? The Stó:lō and Indigenous organizations’ role in a changing climate

The Stó:lō―a word meaning “river” or “the Fraser River” in Halq’eméylem―inhabit the Lower Fraser River watershed. Stó:lō people comprise a supra-tribal collective of Halq’eméylem-speaking peoples whose traditional territory extends from Yale to Langley, B.C. The Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre (SRRMC), based in Chilliwack, B.C., provides land and water stewardship support, and investigative stewardship support, for the Stó:lō community. Climatic and climate-induced impacts, are contributing to shifts in the availability, seasonal patterns and geographical distribution of traditional resources. These shifts exacerbate the Stó:lō people’s already restricted access to traditional resources, which include traditional plants and medicines, wildlife and, most notably, Fraser River salmon. The Fraser River salmon are an integral aspect of Stó:lō history, ecology and identity, and are a staple in Stó:lō traditional diet. Stó:lō community members have reported barriers in adapting to such effects, with special reference to financial and capacity constraints, as well as the lack of recognition of Stó:lō Aboriginal rights to manage traditional territories. The SRRMC supports Stó:lō adaptive capacity by filling technical and research capacity gaps, preserving Stó:lō culture and knowledge, and supporting Aboriginal rights and title, as well as being involved in adaptation planning with Stó:lō communities. Advancing reconciliation in a changing climate entails the recognition and support of existing Indigenous adaptive capacity, including the capacity embedded in Indigenous organizations. Furthermore, the recognition of Indigenous rights, such as through meaningful consultation processes, is paramount for communities to be able to exercise stewardship of threatened traditional resources.

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