For thousands of years, the Syilx/Okanagan people were self-reliant and well provided for through their own ingenuity and use of the land and resources. We lived united as a nation with a whole economy, travelling the breadth and depth of our territory; hunting, fishing, growing, harvesting, and trading created a sustainable economy that met our needs.
From first contact the influx of settlers was slow and yet steady, with both the Syilx/Okanagans and settlers worked towards a living arrangement. Through colonization we were divided from one another and from our way of life. At the same time we were dispossessed from the resources we relied upon, and our self-sufficient economy collapsed.
As settlement of the Okanagan increased, the establishment of an international border, and the colony of British Columbia joining confederation, put considerable pressure on the Provincial government in B.C. to designate reserves for Indians. This would allow for the settlers to formally own the lands they settled on. Reserves were finally established in the early 1900’s. The Syilx/Okanagan people opposed the establishment of the reserves without first having negotiated a treaty.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan which represents the 8 member communities including; Okanagan Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band and Lower and Upper Similkameen Indian Bands and the Colville Confederated Tribes on areas of common concern. Each community is represented through the Chiefs Executive Council (CEC) by their Chief or Chairman.
The Syilx/Okanagan people still affirm that the land is theirs, as no treaty has been negotiated.