Canned Salmon Music Festival: Swimming Together For Generations To Come
The sound of Indigenous music echoed from the fourth floor balcony of the Vancouver Art Gallery as the sunset downtown the night of the first annual Canned Salmon Music Festival. Sponsored by Rogers Media, Salmon Nation, TakingITGlobal and RAVEN, launched by The Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative, the event’s goal was to further introduce Canadians to environmental stewardship of traditional territories and to celebrate Indigenous-led conservation initiatives in the region.
Sitting at a table adorned by fresh cut cedar from a front yard in Bella Bella, harvested just the day before, eating delicious food provided by Joey’s Restaurant, attendees young and old witnessed the generous cultural sharing, took in eloquent speeches and enjoyed the warm hospitality of the host nations. Hand sanitizer made from Kisolite glacial clay from Heiltsuk territories, aromatic, ethically harvested and natural sat each place setting.
Originally intended to take place in Bella Bella, the event was reimagined in downtown Vancouver, not far from the memorial for residential school students who never made it home. This was one example of the painful impacts of colonization, and the evening touched on other areas of common experiences — loss of language, loss of culture, impacts on the environment and the struggle to maintain Indigenous-led stewardship of resources like salmon.
When many Canadians think of salmon, they think of a menu item, but the impactful videos shared between incredible performances highlighted the importance of salmon beyond the dinner plate. Economic, cultural, spiritual, environmental and medicinal, so many stories were told about why salmon is so crucial and why Indigenous communities need this species to be protected so generations to come could be nourished by its riches.
One of the most striking reminders of the power of salmon was the way omega 3 fatty acids contribute to brain health and recovery from trauma, something all too top of mind after witnessing rows upon rows of little shoes and teddy bears as reminders of those lost in the residential school system. Providing more than the fullness of a meal, salmon makes these communities whole in heart, health and spirit.
Elders, chiefs, negotiators, performers and so many other voices shared their salmon stories, creating a nuanced and multi-faceted perspective on the majestic fish. The message that wove its way through the evening was: “This fish is precious and we know how to take care of it. Our Indiegnous ways of knowing have value and need to be recognized. This is our way of life and it is sacred.”
A powerful lineup of Indigenous talent, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Murray Porter, Carsen Gray, Candace Curr, Saltwater Hank, Kristi Lane Sinclair, Sasha Mark, Hayley Wallis, jaye simpson and so many more were enjoyed by the intimate gathering of in-person guests and livestreamed to the world. Beyond their talents, the performers shared glimpses of their lives, experiences, cultural practices, languages and stories. Among the performers were alumni from TakingITGlobal’s #RisingYouth grant program and Samuel Connected North Youth Leadership Fund.
Two hours of highlights of this powerful evening will be aired on CityTV on Sunday, December 19 at 8pm. The event raised funds for Wet’suwet’en land protectors’ legal defence fund with a view to keeping salmon and salmon protectors “swimming strong for generations to come.” Tune in to watch the festival highlights and if you feel led, donate to support this important cause.
The sun set on a night of arts, entertainment and education, while the evening served as a new dawn for an annual event designed to protect a precious resource and a way of life. Like salmon swimming together, attendees were empowered to spread the word about the value of Indigenous-led conservation. In a world where Indigenous ways of knowing are forced to make their way upstream against the current of colonization, new hope is born through gathering with intention and advocacy that’s more than noise — a night of glorious sound.
Thanks to Alison Tedford for authoring this article and participating in the event as part of our collaboration.