The Reach Gallery Museum, Abbotsford, British Columbia
In 2020, The Reach Gallery Museum initiated a collaborative, multidisciplinary partnership with a number of Stó:lō leaders and knowledge keepers in British Columbia to reclaim the memory of a lake that once stretched between present-day Abbotsford and Chilliwack, British Columbia.
For millennia, the lake was central to the cultural, spiritual, and physical wellbeing of the area’s original occupants, the Séma:th people of the Stó:lō nation; however, a century ago, a system of canals, dykes, and pumphouses were introduced to enhance the agricultural capacity of the region. The drainage of the lake had — and continues to have — a devastating impact on the lives and livelihood of the Séma:th people and other Indigenous communities.
The initiative, titled Semá:th X̱ó:tsa: Sts’ólemeqwelh Sx̱ó:tsa/Sumas Lake: Great-Gramma’s Lake, resulted in a number of accessible, user-friendly resources to reach educators, students, and the general public. A print and digital children’s history book was distributed to nearby school districts. An exhibition at The Reach Gallery Museum featured the children’s book and included a pronunciation recording with a Halq’eméylem language expert. An online video and resource kits reached further audiences during the pandemic. Using memory and story, this collaborative project recalls a time when the lake was thriving and invites the public to consider the ongoing repercussions of colonialism in their community.