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Sumas First Nation Premier reflects on ‘catastrophic’ flooding in what was once a lake – BC

A hundred years after Lake Sumas was drained to satisfy the farming preferences of colonial settlers, the area between Abbotsford and Chilliwack was once again under water.

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The Sumas Delta flooded this week after 48 hours of torrential rain, which could swallow homes, cars and agricultural infrastructure, as well as displaced thousands of people.

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It was a disaster, Sumas’ First Nation Chief Dalton Silver felt might have been prevented, if care of the original lands and lakes had been left to the stewards of Semá: th’s original. it.

“Our people cannot understand why anyone would want to drain a lake and change or alter Mother Nature in that way,” he told Global News. “That would be a disaster.”

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Lake Semá:th, or Lake Sumas, was drained by the BC provincial government in the 1920s to make way for colonial farmland, causing the Sumas First Nation and its members to relocate.

Courtesy: Reach . Museum


Click to play video:'Floods BC: A History of the Sumas Pasture'







Flooding BC: A History of the Sumas . Meadow


Flooding BC: A History of the Sumas . Meadow

Lake Sumas, originally named Semá:th Lake, was drained in the 1920s to create and irrigate new farmland in the Fraser Valley.

Sumas Prairie later became home to about 3,000 people, while members of the Sumas First Nation were pushed into a reserve.

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“It was devastating for our people at the time,” Silver said. “That has been said by the heads of the past and by the elders, it is more or less like taking away our supermarket, our shopping mall.”

The fertile Lake Sumas – is home to salmon, sturgeon, freshwater mussels, trout, crayfish and other food species, Silver said. It also has small islands where canoe hunters hunt deer.


Click to play video:'BC Flood: Community Volunteers Help Save Endangered Sumas Prairie Pumping Station'







BC floods: Community volunteers help save vital Sumas Prairie pumping station


BC floods: Community volunteers help save vital Sumas Prairie pumping station

The settlers built a pumphouse and dam to protect the new pasture, as the nearby Fraser River rests on higher ground.

In modern times, the Barrowtown Pumping Station has worked full time to keep grasslands dry.

Volunteers were forced to sandbag the pumping station this week as rising water levels forced hundreds of residents in the area to evacuate their homes.

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As of Thursday, the water in Sumas Prairie still increasing and evacuations are underway as water from Washington State’s Nooksack River continues to flow northeast across the river.

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According to Chad Reimer, author of Before We Lost The Lake, The Natural and Human History of the Sumas Valley, This week’s catastrophic weather events are a reminder that “environmental forces” must be respected, especially in land use planning.

“At least it showed me that the lake that we thought disappeared 100 years ago – it could still come back,” he said. “We have to realize that we are not just on a floodplain, we are at the bottom of a lake.”


Click to play video:'B.C. Flooding: Government updates province as flood cleanup continues'







Flooding in BC: Government updates on province as flood cleanup continues


Flooding in BC: Government updates on province as flood cleanup continues

The Sumas First Nation was not evacuated because the land it occupies now lies on higher ground. Drinking water is not a concern, Silver says, but the health and future of the Semá ancestral territory: th.

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“Our view is that we should take care of everything around us that is taking care of us, which means salmon, animals, everything else,” he said. “We are the earth and the earth is us.”

The government must recognize ownership of Semá:th for the land, he added.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/8385289/sumas-lake-reflection-first-nations/ Sumas First Nation Premier reflects on ‘catastrophic’ flooding in what was once a lake – BC

DevanCole

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