At the peak of the summer, my nation, the Nlaka’pamux, one of the Indigenous Peoples of south-central British Columbia, used to know when the salmon had returned to local rivers by the annual blooming of the waxz’ethlap, or wild mock-orange shrub. This flower’s annual bloom along the shores of the Thompson River used to tell us when to prepare our salmon nets and fish-drying racks to harvest what is one of our most important protein sources.
However, because of the impacts of climate change on the lands and waters in our territories, this annual bloom is no longer synchronized with the salmon’s journey up the rivers to spawn. The waxz’ethlap flowers that once welcomed the salmon home miss the yearly migration by several weeks.
In late June, an extreme heat wave formed over the Pacific Northwest, fuelling a catastrophic fire season. As the temperature soared, Lytton, B.C. — a town only 22 miles away from my home community, the Cook’s Ferry Indian Band at Spences Bridge, B.C. — reached an unprecedented 121.28 degrees Fahrenheit and the next day burned to the ground.
That was the hottest temperature recorded anywhere in Canada. My community, and many other adjacent Indigenous communities, were under wildfire evacuation alerts from June to mid-September.
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