On the north side of the Fraser River, a small crowd gathered to celebrate the beginning of a new venture. The Cheam First Nation band is opening their arms wide to visitors in their territory — pushing aside past conflicts and animosity with other fishing groups — by opening the Cheam Fishing Village.
Everyone will be welcome. Everyone can stay and feel at home, said Ernie Victor.
On the south side of the river, almost across from the new campsite area, a bear gently glides into the Fraser for a swim. Everyone moves to catch a sight of the animal, barely visible as he crosses the water.
“It’s a good sign,” someone says.
“A strong spirit,” says another.
Everyone watches as he lumbers out of the water and across the sandbar, before disappearing behind trees and into the water once again.
They say if you want to find a fishing spot, just watch for bears, Victor says.
But all fisherman who call these reaches of the Fraser River home know that the area is a salmon smorgasbord. Now, they’ll enjoy unfettered access to a boat launch area and a reliable place to set up an RV, picnic tables included.
“People come to our community and they get taken care of,” Victor said. “This is taking it another step forward, we are opening our doors, our land, our sacred space.”
Following a traditional welcome song, council member Lincoln Douglas joined Ed George, vice-president of the BC Wildlife Federation, and Theresa Fresco from the Fraser Basin Council on the river’s edge. Together, the trio cast out a ceremonial line.
It was a symbol of their new partnership and willingness to work together, a concept that’s also the impetus behind a FBC initiative called Harmony on the Fraser.
For George, the campsite has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been going down here for years (on a boat) and saying I want a campsite right there,” he said. “And here it is.”
He is hoping to come back to fish for real, once the fisheries announces this summer’s opening.
The new campsite includes 45 sites, a fire pit, boat launch, day parking, riverside trails and picnic tables. It’s the newest venture among the 200 aboriginally-owned businesses in Sto:lo territory.
Staying at the campsite ranges from $25 to $40 a night, and will directly benefit the Cheam First Nation band.
Access to the site is via the eastern Whelpton Road, keeping east on Dyke Road. A short road has been upgraded to access the newly built campsite.
Cheam has also upgraded its Cheam Trading Post, a wholesale and retail outlet for salmon. It’s also a new place to pick up soft fruits grown in Okanagan Indian Band orchards.
For more information, visit www.cheamfishingvillage.com.