A Story of Risk, Protection and Friends at the End of the World

On top of everything else, the spring run of Chinook salmon had been low in the Cowichan River as the hunters had looked forward to it. Of course, they had counted a head of forest fire (hence the fire walk), and a lot of running and carrying of water, but the people had also watched their only chinook salmon run come and go, dropping significantly in the last four years. As with salmon all along the West Coast, the Cowichan valley’s chinook — and its tradition — were facing threats by climate change and environmental degradation. And with each drop in chinook numbers, the Crow Creek hunt got harder. There were fears that the banks of the Cowichan, whose shores used to be splashed by spawning silver kings, might cave in entirely. In 1988, they did: When seawater gushed up through the falls, some 15 million gallons of water doused its banks and sediments, disintegrating the river as it swept it away, helping to put an end to that. In 2003, it was again a melt-free fall, and the Cowichan Tribes decided to go ahead with the river hunt. The tradition was seriously thinned, but a few people continued the hunt regardless.

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