Fire / Feu


Héritage de  "Blum" (saumon)

En remontant la nuit des temps, la Première Nation de la Tobique, située aux confluent des rivières Saint-Jean et Tobique au Nouveau-
Brunswick, a jouit d'une alliance et d'une relation étroite avec les deux rivières adjacentes qui leur ont donné un approvisionnement illimité en saumon.

Le premier effet déstabilisant vint en 1492 avec l'arrivée des Européens en ce pays. En deuxième lieu, le processus "mieleux" et chargé de revenus arrive par l'entremise d'ententes séparées avec les bandes sur les droits de pêche, négociées une réserve à la fois, ce qui enlève essentiellement le contrôle aux autochtones et le remet entièrement dans les mains des gouvernements provincial et fédéral.

Le deuxième enjeu majeur est la destruction démentielle et délibérée du saumon de rivière par ces deux niveaux de gouvernements pour le bien-être économique des corporations. La construction de barrages a causé la perte permanente du saumon et, conséquemment, la perte permanente de la source de nourriture et le gagne-pain des autochtones. Le saumon qui remontait les rivières St-Jean et Tobique n'est plus maintenant qu'un bon souvenir ou une simple note au bas de la page de l'histoire des autochtones et du Nouveau-Brunswick.

Legacy of the "Blum" (Salmon)

Pat Paul
Tobique First Nation
November 10, 2002

ince time immemorial, Tobique First Nation, located at the confluence of the Saint John and Tobique rivers in New Brunswick, had enjoyed a remarkably close attachment and alliance with the two adjacent rivers that gave them a boundless supply of salmon.

In latter times however, that good relationship with the rivers and salmon has progressively diminished. 

Canoe scene, Tobique River
G.T. Taylor, 1862 (PANB)

Canoe scene, Tobique River. 1862
(photo: Heritage Branch, Culture & Sport Sectretariat)

The first destabilizing effect came with the arrival of the Europeans to this country in 1492. The visitors not only liked the land they saw, but coveted, almost insanely, the virgin territory. So began the settling practice. For at least a short time, native people outnumbered the Europeans by a huge margin. But with the mad rush to settle, exploit and overtake the land, hordes of immigrants drifted onto the land.

As their numbers increased, so did their aggression to force their issues and policies on native people. In time, they established governments and bureaucracies to rule their lives. The Indians were swallowed up by these conventions, which were foreign to the indigenous population.

Among those foreign regulations was the policy over the domain and use of the rivers. This originally didn't affect Indian fishing too radically, but as time progressed to the 19th and 20th centuries, the Indian was forced to take the back seat (or no seat at all) in the running of things, such as who controls fishing, where fishing can be done, who has priority over what, or who has no rights at all.

Presently, the situation has reached the precarious state whereby Indians are now forced to abide by white regulations, which are 'honey-dipped' to make them more palatable and impose severe penalties if they are not followed. The 'honey-dipped,' revenue-laden process comes through separate band fishing agreements, reserve-by-reserve, which essentially takes total control away from Native hands, leaving the provincial and federal governments completely at the helm. Today, the abundance and availability of salmon on reserves is at an all-time low, if not completely destroyed. That is the number one major effect. 

The second major issue is the forceful and deliberate destruction of river salmon by the two levels of government for corporate interests.

In their search to prop up jobs and the economy in the province of New Brunswick, the provincial seers of the 1940’s and 1950’s decided to attract corporations into the province by luring them with quick and easy ways to start businesses.

One of the corporations that decided to accept the provincial offer was a mining company who found rich veins of gold, silver, iron, etc, lying in the north-eastern part of the province.  But to successfully mine these rich ores took a lot of electric power, which the province was willing to provide at little or no cost. The main concern in securing this abundant cheap power was that the company must employ a lot of New Brunswickers.

As history can now record, the companies agreed with the province to go it together, and the clamour to start building hydroelectric dams began.

Mactaquac Hydro Generating Plant

(photo : NB Imagebank)

In the 40’s and 50’s, the boom and mania of dam building began at rocket speed.  First, the buffer and coffer type dams to supply and support the larger down river dams started appearing in the upper regions of New Brunswick rivers.

Each dam was engineered to accommodate the annual salmon run either by a by-pass contraption of some sorts, or a fish lift.  None of these devises worked effectively however, and resulted in a great loss of the Atlantic salmon every successive year thereafter.  To date, the only salmon available above these hydro dams are those caught by huge scooping processes below the dam and transported by truck to upper parts of the river. Records have shown that since the 1950’s, no natural migratory salmon has made its way through the maze of obstacles put in their way by the dams.

The building of dams has caused the permanent loss of salmon and the permanent loss of our peoples’ primary source of food and livelihood. Our people have never received any compensation for this loss; whereas white Eurocanadians received some form of compensation from their government for their loss of livelihood.

As the smaller dams, buffer and coffer, were completed, the main huge megawatts river dams were started in sequence.  The first of these three was the Tobique Dam, completed in 1952. The second, of a little bigger size, was at Beechwood, completed around 1957.  The third and largest one was built at Mactaquac, near Kingsclear Indian Reserve, completed in 1960-61.  

View on lake at head of the main Tobique River,
Victoria County. G.T. Taylor, c. 1906 (PANB)

View on lake at head of the main Tobique River, 1906
(photo: Heritage Canada)

At this time, the salmon that run up the Saint John and Tobique rivers are just a memory or a footnote in native and New Brunswick history.  All and every type of activity and native livelihood made from the river and the Atlantic salmon is remembered in the same way.