Nelson author: ‘Can we stop thinking of the river as a villain?’

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes launched her book A River Captured at Touchstones on Sunday.

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes launched her book A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change at Touchstones Nelson on Sunday.

“What you’re looking at is underwater now.”

Nelson author Eileen Delehanty Pearkes let this statement hang in the air for a moment as she flipped through a slideshow presentation at Touchstones on Sunday afternoon. Approximately 50 people had gathered in the lobby for the launch of her book A River Captured, and the image onscreen showed a lush riverside acreage and a man on horseback.

“When we talk about the Columbia River there’s a lot of loss, and that’s what originally captivated me,” Pearkes told the audience. She believes the flooding caused by damming the Columbia has had far-reaching negative repercussions in this case the ranch owner who lost his property ultimately committed suicide.

“People quite simply don’t know about this. There are very few people with living memory of the Columbia before the dams went in.”

And she’s aiming to remedy that.

“It’s important for residents of the region to understand the history of what happened, so that we can have an informed voice in upcoming government discussions.”

The slides, which are included in the book, depict the Kootenays from the late 1950s to the early 1980s and capture the changing landscape during hydroelectric development. The photographs were taken by an avid hiker named Ron Waters and show the dams and reservoirs covered by the Columbia River Treaty.

The biggest tragedy that resulted from the treaty, according to Pearkes, is the loss of free-running water. As she puts it in her children’s book The Heart of a River, which she’s toured to local elementary schools: “I am a river whose work has been interrupted by a prosperity I do not recognize, whose spirit is impoverished and silenced.”

And she thinks human beings need to rethink their relationship with it. Though in the past rising water levels wreaked havoc on communities such as Trail and Nakusp, she said that doesn’t mean it’s malevolent.

“Can we stop thinking of the river as a villain?”

Pearkes would like her book to end up on the desk of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And she has a specific message in mind: “We do not forget.”

“Be not fooled that the Columbia River Trust has satisfied what we deserve,” she said. “I want the federal government to come here, to see all the dead shorelines and really understand what’s going on. We don’t want them in their towers making these decisions.”

An audience member thanked Pearkes for sharing her insights and research, noting that many of the issues she explores are pertinent to the controversy swirling around the Site C dam in northeastern B.C. Historians and activists alike lined up to have their books signed.

At one point during the presentation, Pearkes told the audience she had jettisoned a lot of her material to make for a streamlined narrative. With this in mind, she joked that she has an idea for a potential sequel title: A River Freed.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Work begins on new affordable housing building in Nelson

The 39-unit project is expected to be complete by July 2021

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Morning Start: 180 different bird species exist in Kootenay National Park

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 29

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Join Kootenay family in virtual walk for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert,” Brigitte Ady shares.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Most Read