The Heart of a River

ISBN 9781771607001
Softcover | Publication Date: April 16, 2024
96 Pages

About the Book

This is a book for anyone, of any age, who cares about rivers.

This story of the Columbia River is unique. Told from the river’s perspective, it is an immersive, empathetic portrait of a once-wild river and of the Sinixt, a First People who lived on the mainstem of this great western river for thousands of years and continue to do so even though Canada declared them “extinct” in 1956.

The book’s re-release comes at a critical time for natural systems and for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples across North America. The Colville Confederated Tribes, representing over 3,000 Sinixt People, recently won a precedent-setting case in the Supreme Court of Canada affirming that Aboriginal Rights do not stop at the border. The important story of the Sinixt weaves together with the ongoing ecological impact of hydropower development on the Columbia and its tributaries.

Central to the story is the joyous spirit of salmon, once a free swimmer in the Columbia’s currents north of the border but now blocked from ancestral spawning grounds by Grand Coulee and other dams. Restoring migratory fish indigenous to the Upper Columbia will require transboundary cooperation. With Indigenous Nations on both sides of the US–Canada border now leading the way, many are hopeful that the fish will return.

Lavishly illustrated by Nelson, BC, designer Nichola Lytle, this portrait of a globally significant river will inspire anyone who reads it to care about the future of the salmon, a fish that unites all of us in its quest for freedom and possibility.

About the Author(s)

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes explores landscape and the human imagination, with a focus on the history of the upper Columbia River and its tributaries. Born in the United States, educated at Stanford University (BA English) and the University of British Columbia (MA English), her work resists nationality and insists on truth. Popular online columns on the western Canadian landscape stress the need for reconciliation of people with land. She has spent over two decades working alongside the Sinixt to bring awareness to their story. In 2014 she curated an extensive exhibit on the history of the Upper Columbia River system in Canada for Touchstones Nelson museum and the Columbia Basin Trust. It details dramatic ecological and social changes in British Columbia, both before and after the Columbia River Treaty (1961–64), and won an award of excellence from the Canadian Museum Association. Eileen has published two books with RMB: The Geography of Memory: Reclaiming the Cultural, Natural, and Spiritual History of the Snayackstx (Sinixt) First People and A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change. A dual citizen, Eileen divides her time between California and Nelson, British Columbia.