Spuzzum First Nation (SFN) is hosting a potluck potlatch to celebrate the launch of their campaign to preserve and restore the 1926 Alexandra Bridge structure.
Chief James Hobart and the SFN are inviting the public to the event in their traditional territory on July 26 at the Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park picnic area. The centrepiece of the festivities will be their First Salmon Ceremony – normally held within the SFN community.
“The First Salmon Ceremony is a feast giving thanks for abundance and we want to share that abundance with everyone along the Gold Rush/Spirit Trails,” said Hobart. “The 1926 Alexandra Bridge structure is one of the things we’re grateful for – it has an abundance of history and heritage tourism potential.”
The celebration starts at 11 a.m. with a welcome to the traditional territory, stories of the significance of the First Salmon Ceremony and a brief outline of the Alexandra Bridge Project, which is dedicated to making a rejuvenated bridge a legacy project for the Canada150 celebrations.
Spuzzum First Nation is one of the lead organizations in the Alexandra Bridge Project, a coalition of government, community and corporate groups with the common goal of making the preservation of the bridge a legacy project for the Canada150 celebrations in 2017.
Built for automobiles in 1926, the current bridge replaced the original wagon bridge of 1863. The structure requires repairs to bring it up to current building standards capable of carrying maintenance vehicles. Deterioration of cement and caps on the bridge towers that hold the cables in place specially need to be addressed. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure completed an assessment and noted the bridge is safe to walk across but requires work in order to protect and preserve the structure. In 2012, the government estimated the cost to repair and preserve the bridge for 75 years at $11.9 million. The work could also be broken down into stages to address the safety concerns.
“The Alexandra Bridge is an icon of Canadian transportation and cultural history, the highways equivalent of the Last Spike,” said Hobart. “But it is also the tip of a heritage iceberg that includes 10,000 years of First Nations’ history, the fur trade, Gold Rush and the building of the railways. It’s something worth preserving.”
Participants will feast on barbecued salmon and other food at this free event. They’ll also be asked to sign a petition calling on the provincial government to show leadership in assembling the resources needed to restore and rejuvenate the 88-year-old bridge structure.
SFN is an active and growing community in the heart of the Fraser Canyon. A member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, its offices are near Alexandra Bridge and about 16 kilometres north of Yale.