Saturday, March 2nd was a blustery day in the Valley, but it was truly heart warming to have so many community members come out to the Water Wealth launch party.
The skies were dark, the wind was gusting, and the rain was coming down in sheets thanks to the Pineapple Express that was passing through. But our headquarters on Storey Avenue was brightly-lit and overflowing with energized community members and people interested to learn more about an initiative to protect our shared home waters.
Our Community Advisor and Soowahlie member of the Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe Larry Commodore started off our event with a moving presentation on the abundance of water wealth that has existed in the Fraser Canyon & Fraser Valley region for thousands of years - acknowledging the Wells family who called this region a second Eden when they set up one of the first farms in the area. Sto:Lo Elder and Skway member of the Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe Eddie Gardner graced us with a moving welcome and a song to acknowledge the rights and title of the Indigenous Nations of the Sto:Lo, Yale, In-SHUCK-ch and Nlaka’pamux.
The afternoon warmed up as new relationships were built and existing ones nurtured.
More than 100 people flooded our office including sitting MLA Gwen O'Mahoney and a diverse range of grandparents, parents and children representing a range of local community groups. We had local storyteller Maude Stephany entertaining the young people who came out and artist Kevin Harper, who presented an AMAZING giant hand-drawn map of our community water bodies. Our BBQ was supported through donations from local businesses Hofstede’s Barn, Greendale Meats, Save-On-Foods, Sardis Bakery, and Decades Coffee and a tireless team who bared the brunt of the hurricane to ensure we were fed warm food.
One of our campaign goals is to paint a detailed picture of the water wealth that we all share and need to safeguard. Over the course of the afternoon and evening we heard some wonderful personal stories about the special value our rivers, lakes and groundwater have for local residents. We also tested some of our high-tech tools that we will be using to gather more stories of our water wealth so we can share the collective narrative of our precious home waters.
Many also raised concerns about the threats to these home waters, including Kinder Morgan’s plans to build a new heavy oil pipeline and the issues surrounding permanent chlorination for the city of Chilliwack. But overall we ended on a hopeful note, with dozens of volunteers signing up to help out with the project.
I'd like to say a big thank you to all those who braved the weather to join us. No doubt this is only the beginning of a strong network of new found friends coming together to safeguard the unique water wealth we have in the Valley – and if you weren’t able to make it out to our open house, we hope you will stop by our office hours and stay tuned for more of our events that celebrate our precious home waters.