They came, singing and chanting, drumming and dancing. First they came as a trickle, then a flood, and still they came, in a multitude of generations and races,from towns and First Nations across the Island. They came with costumes, they wore their button blankets, they came with colourful salmon people signs.
There were native singers, there was a samba band, there was a marching band, and they flowed onto the lawn of the BC Legislature in their joyous thousands.
How many thousands may be a point of debate for years, since the Canwest papers, based apparently on the official police estimate, published a number five times lower than the unoffical police estimate at the time, cited by other media, of four to five thousand.
They were all part of one of the greatest environmental marches in BC history and they were answering the call of biologist Alexandra Morton to show the government that it was time to close down open pen salmon farms and to protect wild salmon.
The First Nations had honoured Morton all the way along her passage from Sointula on Malcolm Island down Vancouver Island to Victoria. On this day they called her sister, leader, honourable, they gave her an eagle feather, and pledged to stand strong.
Community activists, from up and down the island and the mighty rivers which bring the salmon inland to succour people and ecosystems all over BC, shaped her journey with their own creativity in town after town. In the end, on May 8th in Victoria, they gave wild salmon, and her, their time and their marching, singing, dancing bodies. Salmon are sacred, they agreed.
Morton said she had tried every other way to move government policy, from peer reviewed, published science papers to the courts. In the end, with no major organization's help, she took her message to the people. She also promised the crowd that she took no money for her salmon work, so her integrity called to them, as she said, "This is over to you now." She asked the crowd to pressure politicans like never before. "People and salmon can live together. Ten thousand years ago, after the glaciers, First Nations and salmon came together into a hostile land and thrived together."
She also posed a fundamental challenge. "Do we live in a democracy or not? This is a test."