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Highway 1 bridge named for respected Neskonlith Elder

Press Release

SALMON ARM – The accomplishments of a noted Neskonlith Elder, academic, teacher and environmentalist are being celebrated with the naming of a new bridge on Highway 1 near Salmon Arm.

The bridge will be a permanent tribute to the late Mary Thomas and her contributions to her community and the fields of early childhood development and ethnobotany.

“Dr. Thomas left such an important legacy when it comes to the environment, preservation of Indigenous language and culture and social development,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “The naming of this bridge near the community in which Dr. Thomas was raised will be a reminder of her important accomplishments.”

The Dr. Mary Thomas Bridge was officially dedicated at a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

“Dr. Mary Thomas was a devoted teacher, an avid environmentalist and a strong believer in building relationships across all cultures,” said Alan Harrison, mayor of Salmon Arm. “Dr. Thomas built bridges between people, earning the respect of all who knew her. The City of Salmon Arm is honoured to dedicate the naming of the new highway bridge to this extraordinary Neskonlith Elder.”

The Dr. Mary Thomas Bridge runs over the Salmon River on the new four-lane Trans-Canada Highway alignment in Salmon Arm. Other improvements to Highway 1 between 1st Avenue S.W. to 10th Avenue S.W. in Salmon Arm include upgraded intersections, a new interchange at First Nations/Salmon River Road, and the conversion of the adjacent former highway alignment into a frontage road for local businesses and residents.

The bridge is part of improvements to Highway 1 between Kamloops and Alberta, including four-laning, intersection upgrades and construction of new frontage roads to improve the safety and capacity of the Trans-Canada Highway.

A backgrounder follows.


Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Media Relations
250 356-8241


Mary Thomas remembered for social, environmental, cultural work

Dr. Mary Thomas Bridge is named for the late Neskonlith Elder and former Shuswap resident.

She was born and raised in Salmon Arm and was a residential school survivor. She learned about Secwepemc culture from her grandparents. This, and her later work with Elders, led her to become an expert on traditional plants and their uses.

As well as receiving two honorary degrees from the University of Victoria and one from the University of North Carolina, she taught at Okanagan College and was awarded for her seminal work in early childhood development.

Thomas was born in Salmon Arm in 1918 and passed away in 2007.


Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Media Relations
250 356-8241


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