Lottie Kozak does all kinds of art; one of her favourite subjects, fish, is dwindling.

Lottie Kozak does all kinds of art; one of her favourite subjects, fish, is dwindling.

Falkland artist favours, fights for fish

Lottie Kozak does all kinds of art; one of her favourite subjects, fish, is dwindling

Fish, in particular, salmon, are important to Falkland artist, hunter and fly tyer Lottie Kozak.

The self-taught artist and former logger has wood carvings of salmon predominantly displayed in her studio off Highway 97, along with drawings, bone, wood, horn and stone carvings, beadwork and necklaces.

Soon, Kozak says, she’ll have to create her fish work from memory as she’s concerned about the dwindling fish stock numbers in the region.

“Logging is causing it,” said Kozak, who won’t give her age but says she’s been around the North Okanagan “more than 58 years.”

Kozak has her work on display at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery through until Aug. 4, part of an exhibition called Slxlxaya: Stories of the Secwepemc Culture, an exhibition featuring art and audio stories by Indigenous artists and storytellers. Kozak will be on hand Thursday to share her story (part of the exhibition’s Coffee Break and Artist Talk, which also goes July 19, both starting at 2 p.m.).

She talks about neighbouring Bolean Creek, where she once walked and fished, which flows into the Salmon River. Now, she says, there’s not enough water in either body of water to do that.

“Salmon River used to be full of salmon. Now it’s nothing. Nothing,” she said. “You might see one salmon. It’s not just logging. Farmers draw the water out for irrigation. There’s just a little trickle of water in that river.”

Kozak says she’s been over to the Adams River in the Shuswap the last five years, the one with the legendary salmon run every fall. Kozak said there’s “hardly any salmon” there anymore.

“One year was pretty good, some years there’s hardly any,” she said. “I can tell going there and looking at the salmon. Last year, and the year before, there was hardly anything. On the Salmon River, years before, you couldn’t walk across the river without hitting a fish.

“They need to get rid of fish farms on the coast, too. It’s totally polluting the sea and has a lot to do with the young salmon going out to see. Rivers are so low, how can they survive? So they go out to sea.”

She also wishes loggers would return to a former practice.

“They used to lay patches of timber along creek beds, they don’t do that anymore,” she said. “They wipe everything out.”

Kozak is one of the artists and storytellers partnering that makes up the current display in Salmon Arm.

Ten emerging and mid-career Indigenous artists, including three youth artists, created work that is a mix of contemporary and traditional styles. It visually tells stories in new ways.

Premier John Horgan, meanwhile, announced June 15 that the government is bringing together experts from around the province to develop a strategy for restoring and sustaining B.C.’s salmon populations.

The Wild Salmon Advisory Council will provide key insights and guidance on protecting wild salmon and maximizing the value of this important resource for B.C.

“Wild salmon are crucial to the success of our economy, the prosperity of coastal communities, and the lives, culture, and history of Indigenous peoples,” Premier Horgan said. “The Wild Salmon Advisory Council brings experts together to help develop a wild salmon strategy to protect B.C. salmon today and for future generations.”

Co-chairs Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, and Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk First Nation will lead the council, as it addresses a wide range of issues affecting wild salmon.

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