On Thursday, December 13, 2018 from 6 to 8 PM at the Reach Gallery (32388 Veterans Way, Abbotsford), Chad Reimer launches the “Before We Lost the Lake” to the public. Admission is free, all are welcome, and books will be available for sale and signing.
Today, few people are aware that Sumas Lake ever existed. The only reminder is a plaque erected on the old lakeshore, at a rest-stop along the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Whatcom Road, on the historic trail blazed to BC’s gold fields.
Yet, for thousands of years, the broad expanse between Sumas and Vedder Mountains east of Vancouver lay under water, forming the bed of Sumas Lake. Then, through the 1920s, a network of dykes, canals, dams and pumphouses was erected and the lake drained—“reclaimed” in the words of projects supporters. A new landscape was created, a seemingly ‘natural’ prairie carved up into productive farmland. “Before We Lost” the Lake examines the lake’s natural history and ecology, its occupation and use by the Sema:th and other First Nations, its colonization by White immigrants, the environmental changes brought about by introduced plants and animals, and the campaign to drain it. Drainage proponents had their way and gradually the promised benefits were realized. But these benefits came at a heavy cost to the environment and for the Sema:th, whose traditional way of life was irretrievably lost.
“A compelling cautionary tale of White newcomers’ determination to improve on nature at Indigenous Peoples’ expense.”
— Jean Barman, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and author of The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia