Return of Chinook Salmon to the Upper Columbia and the Columbia Community Salmon Initiative

May 16th, 2022

Since March 9, 2022, the ONA has received several reports from Anglers who have caught and identified juvenile and sub-adult chinook salmon in the eastern portion of Syilx territory — including in the Lower Arrow Lakes, on the Columbia River down river from the Keenleyside Dam and in the Waneta area.

To date (May 12, 2022) we have three confirmed chinook catches from local anglers in the following locations:

  1. Lower Arrow Lake (fish successfully navigated the vessel locks at HLK Dam) – fish was caught around March 9 and PIT tag was provided on March 15, 2022.
  2. Columbia River immediately below Hugh Llewellyn Keenleyside (HLK) Dam – identified with photographs and fileted carcass, on March 15, 2022.
  3. Columbia River at Waneta (west side, opposite confluence of the Pend d’Oreille River) – identified through photographs on May 2, 2022.

On March 15, 2022, an angler delivered the suspected juvenile chinook caught on Lower Arrow Lake to Castlegar office staff. The fish was confirmed to have a PIT [passive integrated transponder] tag.  After searching the known PIT tag databases they yielded no “hits”. The tag number was sent to UCUT Salmon Reintroduction scientists and confirmation was made by them was that this chinook was part of a Spokane Tribe pen culture program in the Spokane Arm of Lake Roosevelt, released as a yearling on March 23, 2021. We have photographs and skeletal carcass of the fish caught at HLK dam, and only a photo of the one caught at Waneta.

In order to ensure that ONA is taking the lead in monitoring these Chinook salmon in the Upper Columbia, we have had to accelerate the 2-year-old idea of developing a Columbia Salmon Community Initiative (CoSCI), and begin this immediately. ONA is also inviting select guides and anglers, and holding in-person information sessions covering: Columbia salmon story (past, present, future); ingredients in the CoSCI kit and purpose; DNA sampler and how to properly use. To date (May 12, 2022) five (5) kits handed out, under agreement. Three (3) more kits are prepared and have intended designates (not handed-out yet; pending aligned schedules).

For more information on this issue, or to report a chinook, please contact:

Michael Zimmer

Richard Bussanich

ONA Chinook Salmon Angler Program


Media Advisory: Syilx Okanagan Nation’s Salmon Ceremonies and Fry Releases in the Upper Columbia

May 16th, 2022

WHAT: From May 17 – 18, 2022, as part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) ongoing effort to bring salmon back to the Upper Columbia, sockeye fry releases and cpu taʔstm iʔ xaʔxʔitət uɬ ck ́aʕxtm iʔ ntytyix Salmon Ceremonies will take place throughout the Upper Columbia.


May 17 – Castlegar at 10:00 am at Millennium Park 

May 17 – Slocan at 2:00 pm at Slocan Beach Boat Launch

May 18 – Revelstoke at 11:00 am Centennial Park Boat Launch

WHY: The ONA continues to be dedicated and vigilant to ensure the successful reintroduction of sockeye salmon to the Upper Columbia watershed. These ceremonies and releases are part of the Syilx Nations inherent responsibilities to protect and restore provides an opportunity for the Syilx people to gather and affirm our deep connections with ntyitix (Chief Salmon) and our responsibility to be stewards of our lands and waters. These ceremonies — with our language, captikwł (oral history), songs and prayers — are also an integral part of revitalizing our culture. For thousands of years these ceremonies and customs have been brought forward for our children, and we are committed to ensuring that this work continues.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the 8 member communities of the Okanagan Nation. In the 1960’s the Columbia River Treaty led to the creation of industrial reservoirs and the building hydro-electric developments on the Columbia River, making it impossible for fish passage, which deeply impacts Syilx cultural and food systems. Years of hard work, direct action, and political advocacy, particularly in the last decade, have seen the ONA working with provincial, federal, other First Nations, and US Tribes and agencies to rebuild this sockeye run within all parts of Syilx territory.

For further information please contact:
Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
T:  250-498-9132

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead
T: 250-862-6866

Media Advisory – Salmon Ceremonies 2022

Media Advisory – Syilx Okanagan Nation’s Fry Release at akɬ xʷuminaʔ

May 4th, 2022

WHEN: Thursday, May 5th, 2022. 9:30 am – 10:30 am.

WHAT: Syilx Okanagan Nation members, and nearlyt 400 students from 13 local schools, will take part in a ceremonial release of 10,000 sc’win (sockeye) fry. These fry have been raised as part of Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) Fish in Schools (FinS) Program, along with fry from the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery.

As part of our conservation efforts the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery will release 367,000 sc’win fry throughout the Okanagan and Columbia basins. These releases began this last March and will continue to take place into June, 2022.

WHERE: At the confluence of akɬ xʷuminaʔ (Shingle Creek) and Penticton Channel, off Hwy 97 & Green Mountain Road, Penticton, BC. Please drive slowly. Parking will be available along the left side of the dyke and behind the Save on Gas station.

WHY: This release provides an opportunity for the Syilx people to gather and affirm our deep connections with ntyitix (Chief Salmon) and our responsibility to be stewards of our lands and waters. These ceremonies — with our language, captikwł (oral history), songs and prayers — are also an integral part of revitalizing our culture. For thousands of years these ceremonies and customs have been brought forward for our children, and we are committed to ensuring that this work continues.

The Syilx Okanagan Nation’s fry releases provide a wide range of learning and engagement opportunities. Through programs such as FinS, youth take part in raising the fry and learning about the development of salmon from smolt to fry. By participating at the Sockeye Fry Release they can connect to Syilx Okanagan cultural practices, as well as learning more about the Syilx Okanagan Nation. 


ONA’s kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery is central to our conservation efforts. The 25,000 square foot hatchery has the capacity to rear 8 million eggs and is currently equipped to handle all fish culture aspects required for 5 million eggs from brood stock management until fry release. For more information please visit:

Media Contact:

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead


T: 250-862-6866

Media Advisory

nʔaysnú laʔxʷ iʔ k̓łluxʷnwixʷmntət Declaration of the Ashnola Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA)

April 28th, 2022

nʔaysn laʔxʷ (Ashnola), Keremeos, BC, sməlqm x / syilx Territory: Today, the sməlqm x, the syilx people of the Similkameen Valley announced the designation of a new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) in their territory. The Ashnola IPCA declaration upholds the inherent jurisdiction and responsibility of the sməlqm x to protect and manage their territories according to sməlqm x / syilx law.

We welcome all governments, organizations and individuals who wish to learn more and to work with us, to take advantage of this historic opportunity to align their efforts with our inherent title, laws and management plans,” said kalʔlupaqn, Keith Crow, Lower Similkameen Chief. Protecting and conserving the water and tmixw (the life force within all four sacred ecosystems) is not the sole burden of sməlqmix / syilx. It should be shared, including by national, provincial and local governments through communication and collaboration. Through the IPCA, the nʔaysn laʔxʷ / Ashnola Watershed in its entirety will be managed by the sməlqm x in perpetuity for:

the protection of the water, the ancestors and air / climate, in accordance with sməlqm x / syilx law;
maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity and sməlqm x cultural interconnection with the territory through active sməlqm x management and teaching;

the healing and strengthening of the interconnected relationships between water, the earth, and all of those who interact with it. This includes the tmixw (the life force within all four sacred ecosystems), which are described in our story systems as: the under the earth tribes, the water tribes, the growing on the land tribes, and the walking and flying on the earth tribes of living beings;

the spiritual, cultural and physical sustenance of the sməlqm x people, including sustainable economic opportunities consistent with our responsibilities in the Ashnola.

The Ashnola is one of the last pristine stream systems in sməlqm x territory. Protecting the cold, pure waters of our watershed is essential if the smelqmix, the land, all beings, as well as settlers to the Similkameen, are to thrive in a time of climate change and increasing water scarcity, said xitulaʷ Ira Edward, Lower Similkameen Councillor.

A new kiosk and interpretative signage accompany the Ashnola IPCA designation, which was made at a ceremony in the watershed today, attended by dignitaries, elders, nation members, provincial, federal and local government representatives, and neighbouring nations. Licensees and nonsməlqm x water and land users in the watershed will be given notice regarding how the new IPCA declaration will affect them.

To arrange interviews, please contact:
Lauren Terbasket: 2504991940

Media Release

Syilx Nation Demands Accountability and Justice for the Victims of Deliberate Genocide and Murder in the Face of Ongoing Denial and Lack of Accountability for Indian Residential Schools

April 4th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: On April 1, 2022, Pope Francis issued an apology for the conduct of some Roman Catholic Church members in the Canadian residential school system after a week of discussions with a delegation of First Nation, Inuit and Metis representatives. This followed the Government of Canada recent pledge of an additional $2.9 million to assist in the “recovery” of unmarked remains from Indian Residential Schools across Canada. Over 7,000 unmarked graves have been recovered across Turtle Island in the last year. Collectively, these actions continue to fail to take responsibility for the criminal acts of genocide that occurred at Indian Residential Schools, while diverting resources that are desperately needed on the ground to ensure that justice is truly served.

“Apologies and empty words from the Prime Minister, government officials or a trip to the Vatican will never heal the pain and hurt that our people were subjected to, were witness to and continue to endure. We are past apologies – there is no forgiveness for the murder and attempted murder of our children. We have no faith in the processes being taken by colonial institutions, and are demanding that the Vatican, Roman Catholic Church and Government of Canada move beyond empty apologies. They have actively and explicitly tampered with evidence of their crimes and need to be investigated and held accountable. We will not be silent about those governments or organizations working to protect their own interests – tampering with evidence, deflection of responsibility and accountability,” Chief Greg Gabriel stated.

In the face of these atrocities, Syilx Chiefs and the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee acknowledge the people, the survivors, and those who passed that were taken and placed in Indian Residential Schools. We hold up and stand behind those who survived and those who didn’t. We acknowledge the ongoing impacts of this severe trauma, and honor our ancestors and all living things since time immemorial who have ensured the survival of our people. Our ancestors have fought for us to live and survive, and we continue to fight, to heal. We are grateful for their spirits and the strength they have bestowed upon us. We will continue to actively fight to ensure that justice is delivered to all victims of the Indian Residential Schools throughout the territory and Turtle Island.

“The impact of genocide upon all our peoples is a horrific legacy on Canada’s history and will take more than Truth and Reconciliation talk to ever come to terms with what our people have had to live through to be here today. We are demanding justice, equality, and actualization of human rights, not apologies without real action. This colonial history was a collusion of the State and the Church — that is the Truth, stated Chief Clarence Louie.


The Syilx Indian Residential School (SIRS) Committee is a group of highly dedicated, intergenerational Syilx Indian Residential School survivors. The SIRS Committee is invaluable in providing direction to the Nation on numerous projects regarding the Indian Residential Schools. This Committee, represented by the seven member communities, has expressed that they feel a sense of belonging and healing from participating on this Committee. They have a true ownership role in ensuring projects move forward, taking into account their knowledge and experience. For more information on the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit:

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has a 24/7 emergency crisis: 1-800-721-0066. KU-US Crisis Line Society also provides a 24-hour provincial Indigenous crisis line: Adults call 250-723-4050; children and youth call 250-723-2040; or toll-free 1-800-588-8717.

For further information please contact:
Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
T:  250-498-9132

Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manager
T: 250-826-7844

Media Release

Syilx Okanagan Nation Celebrate World Water Day with 8th Annual Water Forum that Included Key Notes from Maori Water Activists and Local Water Ceremonies

March 23rd, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation celebrated World Water Day with the 8th annual siwɬkʷ (Water) Forum. This year’s Forum explored how the Syilx Okanagan Nation holds up siwɬkʷ as a living relative, and how we can continue to collaborate to protect siwɬkʷ.  The morning included an online event, which started with WFN councillor Jordan Coble opening with a prayer and reading of the Water Declaration.

This was followed by presentations on different water initiatives taking place on the territory, and a keynote presentation from a Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui representative on I am the River, and the River is me: Legal personhood and emerging rights of nature. Their efforts to get the Whanganui River, in Aotearoa (New Zealand) recognized as a living entity have set an international precedent.

“We re-indiginized the law, then are working to decolonize the legal frameworks and processes.” Nancy Tuaine, Chief Executive Officer at Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui told the audience.

The online event included opening presentations on Syilx siwɬkʷ protection by Maryssa Bonneau and Wendy Hawkes, both Syilx Nation members and water protectors, as well as a presentation and panel discussion on of the Okanagan Lake Responsibility Planning Initiative by Kelly Chiatto (MFLNRORD) and Syilx Nation water champion Sarah Alexis. Opening remarks highlighted the Syilx Water Strategy, which is a call to action that outlines how the Syilx Nation intends to care for our territory and work to ensure that siwɬkʷ is properly respected and available for all living things.

“Our relation siwɬkʷ, our most sacred medicine, must be kept healthy to restore and hold its relationship to tmixw to ensure the resiliency of our Mother for the good of all, for all time.” —Syilx Okanagan Natural Resources Committee, 2018

Following the virtual event, participants from across the territory went to the shores of kɬúsx̌nítkʷ (Okanagan Lake) at 2:30pm to offer prayers and gratitude for siwɬkʷ. Water ceremonies were held at three sites along kɬúsx̌nítkʷ, including at Okanagan Lake Park, Komasket Park, and the Westbank First Nation.

At the ceremony in Westbank Jordan Coble shared with the crowd that, “We have to give water the rights. I fully uphold and support giving this lake, this water, those rights, so that we recognize it as an individual. We often treat each other with more respect, even if we don’t get along, then we treat the water. So we need to rally our spirits and our energy together so we continue to provide a good, healthy environment, not just for our future generations, but for all the beings that rely on water just as we do.”


The Okanagan Nation Alliance is committed to conserve, manage, co-manage and where appropriate, develop the natural resources of the lands and waters of the Nation’s territory. In doing so, the Nation will be true to its spiritual and environmental values, mindful of the economic and social needs and aspirations of its individual bands, and strong in its assertion of the Nation’s rights and title to its entire area of occupancy and use.

For more information please contact:

Cailyn Glasser, Natural Resources
T:  1-250-469-1595

Media Release

Okanagan Nation Alliance to Have Full Voting Rights on Okanagan Basin Water Board

March 2nd, 2022

Kelowna, B.C. – The three regional district boards of the Okanagan have voted to change the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB)’s governance structure, giving the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) representative equal voting powers as the representatives appointed by the regional districts. This amends a provision in place since the ONA’s seat on the water board was established in 2006 that limited their ability to vote on financial matters.

“I’m pleased that the ONA now has equal voting powers consistent with the regional districts, allowing the Indigenous voices of the Okanagan to be heard. We need to improve the way siwɬkʷ (water) is managed within the Syilx territory so it will be there for our future generations and all living things,” says Westbank First Nation Chief and ONA Dir. Chris Derickson. “Syilx people have a deep rooted and sacred connection to siwɬkʷ. It is our living relative and it is our job to protect it. We need the voices of Indigenous people to do that.”

“We’re very happy to announce this change to our voting structure,” Water Board Chair Sue McKortoff added. “The OBWB is committed to building a better relationship with the ONA. Endorsing the Syilx Nation’s seat at the board table as equal to the voting power of regional district representatives is one important step forward in our work towards reconciliation and implementing the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Syilx rights.”

The OBWB was initially formed in 1970 by the Regional District of North Okanagan, Regional District of Central Okanagan, and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to provide leadership on valley-wide water issues. At that time, major issues included water quality concerns and the stresses of a growing population. The board was made up of three representatives (“directors”) from each regional district board and work focused primarily on grants to assist municipalities to upgrade sewage facilities and operate a milfoil control program.

In 2005, with a growing number of water issues including concerns around climate change impacts on water supply, the board reviewed its mandate. The following year, in 2006, the OBWB received authority from the regional districts to launch the Water Management Program to improve water science, water policy and communications to support decision making. The new program included the creation of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council (OWSC – a technical advisory body to the OBWB)1, the Water Conservation and Quality Improvement Grant Program, and the expansion of the board to include three additional directors. The three additional directors would include one representing the ONA, one for the Water Supply Association of BC (representing B.C. water suppliers and their customers), and one for the Chair of the OWSC. At that time, the three new directors were approved to vote on all matters other than financial.

At the July 2021 board meeting, after conversations with the ONA, the OBWB endorsed a change to its structure to ensure that the Syilx Nation’s seat had equal voting power to the regional district representatives. The OBWB then began talks with the Province of B.C. to ensure there were no issues with the change. Once it received approval from the province in January 2022, presentations were made to each regional district and each approved the change.
“In 2006, the new directors were added to the OBWB in recognition that the board would be stronger, and that their decisions would reflect a broader perspective. Fast forward to 2022 and the board has recognized that the ONA representative should have the same standing as the local government appointees,” added OBWB Executive Director Anna Warwick Sears. “It’s the right thing to do – advancing reconciliation while building genuine, meaningful partnerships to address water issues in the Okanagan.”

“Since 2006, it has been recognized by the OBWB that it would be a stronger body with a more diverse perspective,” Derickson added. “The voice of the ONA expands the understanding of water and will provide an additional perspective into what actions need to be taken to support its preservation.”

For more information on the OBWB, its purpose, its history, and more, please visit

1 The Okanagan Water Stewardship Council is made up of representatives from water stakeholder groups including agriculture, forestry, and conservation, water technical experts at Interior Health, post-secondary institutions, and First Nations, local and senior government officials in environment, fisheries, agriculture, and more.


Tara Montgomery, ONA – Communications Lead
Mobile: 250-718-7249 E-mail:

Corinne Jackson, OBWB – Communications Director
Office: 250-469-6271 Office: 250-862-6866

Media Release


Open Letter Regarding Freedom Convoy Hate Crimes

February 15th, 2022

The Syilx Okanagan Nation Chief Executive Council is calling for swift response, and support, of regional officials and the RCMP to ensure the safety of our Nation members after receiving reports of a series of racially motivated violent crimes coming out of what is now referred to as Freedom Convoy movement on Syilx territory and throughout Turtle Island.

At 4:00 pm on February 5, 2022, a female, Syilx Nation member was verbally assaulted and intimidated by a group of white “Freedom Convoy” protestors at the Osoyoos border crossing. It was reported that they screamed racial slurs and derogatory statements as she was making her way to go through the border crossing. The perpetrators had singled out the victim out based on the visible Indian Residential School decals on her vehicle, as her vehicle and others inched slowly towards the border crossing.  They would have also seen spiritual objects like her eagle feather hanging on the rearview mirror. These actions and barrage of racism witnessed by the victim were indeed hate crimes. As a visible Indigenous person, we are once again all reminded of the pervasive and brutal intolerance inherent in this movement, but also brings to light the normalization of violence that Syilx people endure on a daily basis. It also serves to illustrate the specific violence directed to Indigenous women throughout Canada, as we can see from the continued issues around MMIWG. It was clear that these demonstrations exhibit the evidence of white extreme supremacy followings in our own backyard.

Attacks like those suffered by one of our Syilx nation members on February 5 are beyond intolerable. We are calling on authorities at all levels to take immediate action to reject this Freedom convoy protest that obviously has breached or violated all citizens principles of our democracy.  These participants or supporters have gone far beyond their actions of letting their governments know of their position on vaccination mandates, to rather that of promoting violence and hate speech.

In addition, on February 11, several Syilx youth witnessed a Caucasian woman who verbally assaulted an Indo-Canadian youth in front of the South Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS). As other Chiefs in the Nation, including Chief Greg Gabriel, has stated “We do not want to lose sight of the racist incident on Friday in front of SOSS nor this incident. These incidents are traumatic for the victim and all our youth that witness such acts. They will have this racist and bigoted memory for life. School grounds and school children are to be “off limits” from any protesting racist adults. We are extremely concerned for the safety of our women, youth and are calling for an appropriate response”. The Chiefs want those that committed these hate crimes investigated by the proper authorities and those that incited these acts of violence held responsible.

The messaging of the so called “Freedom Convoy” has taken an ugly turn and supporters are now using this to advance their racist and bigoted agenda. We urgently call upon border crossing officials, RCMP, local, Federal, Provincial governments representatives to meet with the Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. These are just two incidents that have been brought directly to our attention, but numerous others have undoubtedly went unreported, and have been amplified through the Freedom Convoy movement.

Please immediately contact Pauline Terbasket, Executive Director, Okanagan Nation Alliance at email, or by phone at 250-707-0095 ext.# 214 to assist in arranging this meeting.

On behalf of the Syilx Okanagan Nation and for the courage of the women who reported these two incidents, we stand in solidarity for all People of Color.

Open Letter Regarding Freedom Convoy Hate Crimes

Syilx Okanagan Nation Stands in Solidarity with the T’exelcemc as 93 Grave Sites are Located at the Old St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School Site

January 28th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation stands in solidarity with the T’exelcemc (people of Williams Lake First Nation) as preliminary results from geophysical investigations have identified 93 “reflections” of potential human burials, at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School near Williams Lake, BC. We are sending prayers to all peoples who are being impacted by these tragic findings, alongside all Tribal Nation’s that continues to be re-traumatized by Indian Residential Schools. All these spirits deserve the space to be honored, grieved and properly cared for.

“The church and Canada need to be criminally investigated and charged for killing First Nation children at Federal Indian Residential Schools,” Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair stated. To date no person or institution have been charged in these egregious crimes.

“Over 7,000 unmarked graves have been recovered across Turtle Island in the last year. As these numbers continue to grow, we cannot make them just numbers — each child was a prisoner of war. This intentional cultural genocide was and is to kill the Indian in the child, to remove Indigenous people from each other, their spirit and the lands that the settlers covet. We also recognize that the continued recovery of unmarked graves is traumatizing for many Nation members and First Nations peoples in general.  As these truths continue to be unearthed we encourage all Nation members to unite and continue supporting the survivors and each other through the emotional impacts of the recent findings,” Louie added.

“I truly believe that these heart wrenching atrocities were criminal acts, carried out on those children who never made it home and to our strong Indian Residential school survivors who are still with us. These criminal acts need to be treated as such. Apologies and empty words from the Prime Minister, government officials or a trip to the Vatican will never heal the pain and hurt that our people were subjected to, were witness to and continue to endure. I truly believe a proper investigation needs to be carried out and those who were responsible or complicit in need to be held accountable”, Chief Greg Gabriel also stated.

Allan Louis, Syilx Health Governance Representative also added that, “In this moment of heartbreaking  news we stand with all the communities that are waiting for their children to come home so the healing can continue.”

For Syilx Okanagan Nation members who attended St. Joseph’s and want to share their stories as part of the formal investigation, please reach out to the investigation team at


The Syilx Indian Residential School (SIRS) Committee is a group of highly dedicated, intergenerational Syilx Indian Residential School survivors. The SIRS Committe is invaluable in providing direction to the Nation on numerous projects regarding the Indian Residential Schools. This Committee, represented by the seven member communities, has expressed that they feel a sense of belonging and healing from participating on this Committee. They have a true ownership role in ensuring projects move forward, taking into account their knowledge and experience. For more information on the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit:

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has a 24/7 emergency crisis: 1-800-721-0066. KU-US Crisis Line Society also provides a 24-hour provincial Indigenous crisis line: Adults call 250-723-4050; children and youth call 250-723-2040; or toll-free 1-800-588-8717.

For further information please contact:
Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
T:  250-498-9132

Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manager
T: 250-826-7844

Media Release

‘Fish in Schools’ Program Extends to Over 30 School in the Face of COVID-19 Restrictions

January 19th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: Over the last week the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) delivered the final round of the fish tanks and equipment to 30 schools throughout Syilx territory, including 13 returning schools and groups in the Columbia, as part of the Fish in Schools (FinS) program. These deliveries have come as new provincial regulations have halted the distribution to some institutions due to ever changing COVID-19 regulations. Ten new schools in the Columbia are anticipating delivery of chillers and tanks in the next few weeks, in the hopes that they too, can participate this year.

Chief Keith Crow, CEC member and Co-Chair of the Columbia River Salmon Initiative (CRSRI) stated that “FinS remains a key program component in the ONA’s broader salmon restoration goals to bring salmon back to their original range — raising awareness about the importance of salmon to the ecosystem and the Syilx Nation. Salmon is central to our culture, laws, practices, and principles as peoples. We know salmon have been, and continue to be, blocked from returning by hydro-electric dams created throughout the Columbia River system since the 1940’s, yet Syilx Leadership remains committed to this work as in both the Okanagan sub-basin and Upper Columbia regions where salmon once flourished. We remain steadfast to restoring and rejuvenating salmon back to the Upper Columbia and Okanagan Basin by building and strengthening key working relationships and the public’s awareness of the importance of our once primary food source. This is done by upholding our sacred responsibilities — through numerous ceremonies, ensuring salmon habitat is stewarded in the most innovative ways possible and respecting our ancestor, our elders, their teaching, our traditional knowledge keepers, while engaging western science.”

FinS is a comprehensive fish education program for youth, with a focus on sc’win (sockeye salmon), their lifecycle and the importance of their ecosystems. By creating greater awareness of fish species with youth and students of different ages, the intent is for them to become future leaders, land protectors, water managers, scientists and the multitude of environmental and social justice professions that are available for them. In the Columbia, this program further cultivates awareness of salmon’s historical runs from the ocean, upstream to the Kettle River, Columbia, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenay Rivers, including tributaries of the Salmo and Slocan River.

“The FinS program has proven to be highly successful and popular, with far more requests for participation than we can keep pace with. By having students in the room be able to directly participate in rearing eggs, and raising the hatched fry in the classroom, and seeing their life cycles firsthand, they are able to have a direct contribution and connection to salmon reintroduction efforts. The program also offers educators scientific and cultural resources that enrich students understandings of the importance of this species, for the ecosystem and Syilx people”, Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager added.

Egg delivery to FinS participant schools took place over the first half of January 2022. Upon successfully raising the fry, students will include their fry in ceremonial releases taking place throughout the Syilx territory in 2022.


The Fish in Schools program has been running successfully since 2003 in the Okanagan region and contributes to the kł cp̓əlk@ stim̓ Hatchery’s fry release efforts. The kł cp̓əlk@ stim̓ Hatchery is a testament to the perseverance of the Syilx people to realize their dream of restoring the salmon – one of our Four Food Chiefs – to their original habitat and rightful place in our territory.

For more information contact:
Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager
Tel: (250) 718-5215

Michael Zimmer, ONA Fisheries Columbia Biologist
Tel: (250) 304-7341

‘Fish in Schools’ Program Extends to Over 30 School in the Face of COVID-19 Restrictions Media Release

Syilx Okanagan Nation Call on US Secretary of Interior to Relaunch ki?lawna? (Grizzly Bear) Recovery Work in the Northern Cascades of the US

January 13th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation is urging the US Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, to act immediately and relaunch the recovery planning process for ki?lawna (grizzly bear) in the US portion of the North Cascades. This process was stalled under the previous US Administration since 2016.  However, we are hopeful that the process will be revived by the Biden administration.

The North Cascades span both sides of the US-Canada border. ki?lawna are a keystone species in this ecosystem, but have been nearly extirpated by modern human development and environmental degradation of their habitat. It’s estimated that only six grizzlies are currently found on the Canadian side of this region.

Since 2014, the Syilx Okanagan Nation have been leading stewardship and recovery efforts north of the border — collaborating with partnered Nations, and the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD). Over the last eight years ONA has led the establishment of the Southwest Grizzly Bear Steering Committee (SGBSC), established to support a collaborative approach to grizzly bear recovery and stewardship, including habitat assessments and implementation planning. Alongside these efforts, we have been contributing to field and technical work that supports the future stewardship of ki?lawna in this ecosystem.

“The boundaries created by the US and Canada, are not recognized by ki?lawna. We are urging the US Department of Interior to act immediately and reinstate their recovery planning for this important species. By doing this we will be able to maximize viability of a future Grizzly bear population throughout the North Cascades.”, Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair stated.

ki?lawna has been an integral and critical part of Syilx culture since time immemorial, and its’ presence is an indicator of the health of the land and Nation. Within southern regions of Syilx Territory ki?lawna now occur in low, isolated numbers and much of their habitat has become degraded and highly contaiminated i.e. threats to food source, salmon, huckleberries and real estate development. The ONA will continue the work to ensure that the ki?lawna population will be successfully stewarded back to abundance throughout the North Cascades.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance is committed to conserve, manage, co-manage and where appropriate, develop the natural resources of the lands and waters of the Nation’s territory. In doing so, the Nation will be true to its spiritual and environmental values, mindful of the economic and social needs and aspirations of its individual bands, and strong in its assertion of the Nation’s rights and title to its entire area of occupancy and use.

For more information please contact:
ki?lawna (Chief Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair
T:  1-250-498-9132

Cailyn Glasser, Natural Resource Manager
T: 1-250-469-1595

Syilx Okanagan Nation Demand Proper Engagement Regarding Recent Old Growth Forest Deferrals Announcement by the Province of BC

December 17th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation are deeply concerned and disappointed by the recent announcement by the Province of BC that claims to have engaged and consulted with 161 First Nations regarding old growth logging deferrals. Instead, of the 161 Nations that were ‘heard from’ on this process, most are fully opposed, and many have been deeply impacted by the deferrals.

In collaboration with the ONA’s Syilx Forestry Working Group (comprised of Syilx forestry experts), the CEC have been working in good faith to attempt to develop collaborative processes with the Province regarding forestry on Syilx Territory. This current move by the Province undermines and destabilizes such efforts.

The Syilx Nation formally rejects the BC process to identify Old Growth deferral areas and those areas identified by BC will not impact the Syilx Nation’s strategy to ensure our forests, including Old Growth areas will continue to exist for many generations to come.

It must be stated that beyond engaging with the Nation, there was no consultation or collaboration with Syilx community forestry companies, and many of these deferrals will impacts their plans and bottom lines.

“The Syilx Okanagan Nation have already clearly stated that we will no longer be reviewing and providing feedback on documents that are written by the Province for the Province. We demand to be fully involved and engaged in the development, refinement and implementation of any forestry related policies or decisions on Syilx Territory. The process of consultation currently being taken by the Province is inadequate and superficial. In order to achieve Free Prior and Informed Consent, and meet their mandate to implement Bill 41 and DRIPA, BC must step back and enter into a meaningful collaborative process. This begins with co-development of the concept, and collaboration throughout the development process; as opposed to production of a Provincial document for review and ‘comment’” Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair, stated.

Furthermore, the old growth areas that have been mapped by BC are inaccurate and do not properly represent old growth forests on Syilx territory, with many burn areas, second generation plantations or recent clear cuts included, even though these areas should not be considered old growth. This highlights in ineffective and often skewed process that the Province is currently taking regarding proper engagement with First Nations on forestry issues in BC.

“If BC genuinely wanted to protect Old Growth stands, they would engage with the experts on the land base. The Syilx Forestry Working Group have a collective knowledge of the forests that is unmatched — many of us are foresters within their communities. We have meaningful partnerships with major licensees, with whom we work closely and regularly. The fact that this group was not part of the development of these deferrals, and all of the other policy and legislation that BC is pushing through as part of the forest policy modernization process, is deeply disconcerting. Equally frustrating is the total inaccuracy of the deferral areas. They don’t represent Old Growth stands, and the postage stamp approach to conservation is not meaningful” further added Dennis McDonald, Syilx Forest Working Group Chair.

For information please contact:

ki law na, Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
Cell: 250-498-9132

Cailyn Glasser, ONA Natural Resources Manager
Cell: 250-469-1595

Media Release

wápupxn (lynx) Project

November 19th, 2021

Protection of all parts of the tmixw requires strong collaborations to ensure successful restoration efforts take place and assertion of our responsibilities throughout all parts of the territory.

As part of this commitment the Okanagan Nation Alliance are working with the Colville Confederated Tribes — alongside local trappers, BC’s Ministry of Forests, Land, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Conservation NW — to move wápupxn (lynx) from the north down to the southern Kettle River Mountain Range on the Reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes in northeast Washington state. Populations of wápupxn have drastically decreased in the US due to overharvesting, habitat degradation and population fragmentation, and in 2017 the species became federally listed as Endangered. The wápupxn population north of the 49th parallel is currently thriving, which means that moving several animals south will have minimal impacts on the population to the North, while significantly increasing the chances of viability in the Kettle population. With these relocations, the goal is to support transboundary connectivity between wápupxn and improve population numbers and resilience throughout the territory.

In 2017, the ONA led a transboundary initiative work towards better understanding how lynx movements through the Kettle River landscape in Washington State. Three male lynx were collared and released for monitoring. Since then, habitat and feasibility studies have been conducted and findings indicated that the Kettle Range is the most hospitable landscape to support the reintroduction of wápupxn.

More recently, five wápupxn (three females and two males) have been released into the Kettle watershed (south of the border). These wápupxn are stabilized and doing well within an area of suitable habitat and resources. The collaboration ensured that the animals were live trapped and safely transported to their new home. They have been equipped with GPS collars which allow us to monitor their movements and resettlement within their newly reclaimed southern home ranges.

Supported by the Syilx Wildlife and Hunting Working Group and the Natural Resource Committee, the Syilx Okanagan Nation continue to advance and assert our responsibilities through collaborations with partners across the territory. This includes enhancing our partnerships with the Colville Confederated Tribes, and others, to ensure that all parts of the tmixw are protected for generations to come.

One River, Ethics Matter Conference

November 11th, 2021

Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBCO, host Columbia River Conference

Voices from both sides of the border discuss ethics of the Columbia River Treaty

What: One River, Ethics Matter (OREM) conference
Who: UBCO’s Jeannette Armstrong, ʔaʔsiwɬ Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, traditional knowledge keepers, environmental experts, academic and religious scholars
When: November 17 and 18, from 9:00 am to 12:30 both days
Venue: Virtually via Zoom

As the world’s leaders convened at COP26 to discuss actions to address climate changes, plans were finalized in the Okanagan for the annual One River, Ethics Matter (OREM) conference taking place later this month.

The 2021 One River Ethics Matter conference is hosted by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC Okanagan. This will be the eighth annual event and it will focus on the Indigenous-led work of the Syilx nation with kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ —restoring ntytyix (salmon)—to the Okanagan and Upper Columbia rivers.

The main objective of the two-day conference is to discuss the review process now underway to modernize the 57-year old Columbia River Treaty. Participants include traditional ecological knowledge keepers, environmental experts, along with academic and religious scholars from both sides of the 49th parallel.

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, a Syilx knowledge keeper and UBCO associate professor who was recently appointed a Royal Society of Canada Scholar, will be one of several speakers at the event. Other leaders and panel experts include Grand Chief ʔaʔsiwɬ Stewart Phillip, who is president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis, University of Idaho Professor Emerita Barbara Cosens, along with Indigenous youth experts, historians, biologists, policy officials and representatives from the Roman Catholic Church.

Pauline Terbasket, executive director of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, has been participating in the OREM conference since the first session in Spokane in 2014.

“These gatherings have been opportunities to feel the reality and impacts of colonization upon Indigenous Nations and the devastating impacts of the Columbia River Treaty. They also provide an opportunity to share stories that are familiar to all tribes along the Columbia River,” says Terbasket. “As the Indigenous people of the Columbia Basin, we are all salmon people, tied to the river for sustenance and to carry our responsibilities to care for all our lands, resources and peoples as we have since time immemorial.”

The OREM conference series is an ethics consultation process for improving the quality of ethical decision-making for the Columbia River.

Lesley Cormack, UBC Okanagan’s deputy vice-chancellor and vice-principal, will provide opening remarks at the event.

“For many generations, the Columbia River basin has supported a diverse ecosystem that breathes life into our natural environment across western Canada and the United States,” says Cormack. “We share an important responsibility to support Indigenous peoples as the caretakers and stewards of these lands and ensure that the Columbia River continues to sustain life for many generations to come.”

About OREM

Salmon have been blocked from reaching Canada’s Upper Columbia River after the Grand Coulee Dam was built in Washington State some 80 years ago. In 1964, Canada and the United States implemented the Columbia River Treaty to develop the hydroelectric potential of the Columbia River Basin and to manage flood risk.

Grounded in respectful dialogue the conference is a part of the Ethics and Treaty Project, which aims to increase public understanding of the Columbia River Treaty and provide an interdisciplinary forum to discuss shared stewardship of the river in the face of climate change. Alternating between the United States and Canada, the conference is jointly hosted by an Indigenous sovereign nation and an academic institution.

The 2021 OREM conference is free and open to the public. More information can be found at:

People can register for the event at:

One River, Ethics Matter Event Advisory

Syilx Okanagan Support Motor Vehicle Restrictions on Wildfire Burn Sites on the Territory

October 29th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Chiefs of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) firmly support the recent decision by the Province of British Columbia to restrict motor vehicle (MV) access on backroads in the Thompson Okanagan and parts of the Kootenay regions that have been impacted by the 2021 wildfire season.

This closure is taking place over 536,000 hectares of land, and has been instituted in order to protect from the “impact to habitats that need time to recover, erosion of charred soils and the impacts to fish habitat, increased vulnerability of wildlife due to migration disruptions, habitat loss and improved sightlines for hunting where vegetation was burned and increased access to wildlife habitat due to the construction of approximately 2,900 kilometers of fire guards” according to the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD).

It is important to note that these closures do not impede the ability of Syilx Okanagan members to access this land. Members are still able to use access these areas based on Section 35 of the Constitution Act that clearly recognizes and affirms our Indigenous rights. The general public should be aware that Nation members have these rights and may be out on the land in these areas at this time.

The Syilx Okanagan Nation, alongside Syilx communities, are working in partnership with MFLNRORD to determine and establish long-term parameters in these areas that will protect and enhance wildlife populations for generations to come.

For information please contact:

Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
Cell: 250-498-9132

Cailyn Glasser, ONA Natural Resources Manager
Cell: 250-469-1595

Media Release – Motor Vehicle Restrictions

Syilx Okanagan Nation Calls for Full Scale Overhaul of Ministry of Children and Family Development in Light of Saunders Case

October 7th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:  The Syilx Okanagan Nation is extremely disappointed by the recent plea deal that was struck for Robert Riley Saunders — a long standing Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) social worker later found to be uncertified and who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Indigenous children on Syilx territory. Saunders was charged with just three of the thirteen charges issued against him, including only one case of fraud.

Such a gross display of behavior with few repercussions highlights the need for a comprehensive and systemic overhaul of the MCFD to ensure that our children receive the best support possible.  We demand accountability be taken and that best practices are put into action in a way that ensures the highest standard of care for Indigenous children.

“MCFD needs to take accountability for their complete failure in following through with their due diligence in ensuring they were hiring a true certified worker. They must put quality measures in place to ensure that such cases as these do not continue to take place. They need provide the structures that ensure that there are qualified, quality staff in place. Cases like that of Mr. Saunders puts children’s care at risk and a brings forward the need for more inclusion and participation by Syilx families and communities in the care of Syilx children,” stated y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Greg Gabriel, Syilx Child and Family Governance Representative…”Every Child Matters”

The Government of BC has feebly attempted to have accountability of MCFD with the creation of the BC Representative for Children and Youth (RCY).  We know that the RCY has published many reports with recommendations, most of which has not been action by the MCFD.  All children deserve the absolute best care, we call on the Government of BC to ensure this is completed now, no more apologies. To date the MCFD has not clearly stated whether they have contacted all the youth who were harmed by Saunders, and whether all entitled youths have received supports.

“The Saunders case has added to the long standing deep rooted history of ongoing injustices and systemic racism that our people suffer at the hands of MCFD. The atrocities our children, youth and families face on a daily basis by MCFD’s lack of quality assurances and cultural appropriateness persists on a daily basis.  There is a distinct parallel of MCFD’s ongoing wilful ignorance of the harms to our people by their system and the ongoing wilful ignorance of the government to recognize the truth of Indian Residential Schools and the real actions required for true reconciliation. The systems purporting to serve the “best interests” of our children and families requires a full-scale overhaul to transform the horrific outcomes our people experience.”  Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manager stated.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the Tribal government for the Syilx Okanagan Nation.  The ONA”s mandate is to advance assert, support and preserve Syilx Okanagan Title and Rights.  Further, the ONA is charged with the forum to bring forward numerous interests and form positions on areas of common concern.  For more info on ONA’s Children and Families work, please visit:


For information please contact:

y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
T: 250-498-9132

y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Greg Gabriel, Penticton Indian Band, Syilx Child and Family Governance Representative
T: 250-490-7250

Syilx Okanagan Nation Open Letter for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

September 29th, 2021

The Syilx Okanagan Nation is calling on all Canadians to remember what September 30, 2021, means for Indigenous Peoples — beyond reconciliation.  Orange Shirt Day was spearheaded by Indian Residential School Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who shared her story widely to bring awareness to the harm and trauma created by colonialism and Indian Residential Schools on Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.

In light of the official findings of unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools across Canada over 2021, alongside the recognition of Orange Shirt Day, also called the National Truth and Reconciliation Day, as a statutory holiday on September 30, the demand for support and Orange Shirts has spiked.  As part of actions leading up to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the Syilx Okanagan Nation is calling on all non-Indigenous retailers to immediately stop the sale of “Every Child Matters” orange shirts if they do not provide proceeds back to Indian Residential School survivors and their families. The Syilx Indian Residential School Committee has stated that “by not giving profits to survivors, vendors are profiteering off the harm and trauma suffered by those that attended Indian Residential Schools.” This is also not a day to expect Indigenous peoples to educate non-Indigenous people on these experiences — but rather a day where we ask Canadians to right the wrongs of the injustice towards Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. It calls upon all of us to take responsibility and proper action to move forward in a way that does not continue to exploit the victims and their families. A National Day of Truth and Reconciliation may rather be an opportunity to raise awareness and address social injustices, harm and inter-generational trauma suffered by Indigenous peoples.

The Syilx Okanagan Nation remain committed to standing united and demand justice for the thousands of children who never returned from Indian Residential Schools. As part of this commitment, we support the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee in their ongoing efforts to collectively support each other through bringing these traumas to light.


Orange Shirt Day originated from the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013. The event took place to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. 


The Syilx Indian Residential School (SIRS) Committee is a group of highly dedicated, intergenerational Syilx Indian Residential School survivors. The SIRS Committee is invaluable in providing direction to the Nation on numerous projects regarding the Indian Residential Schools. This Committee, represented by the seven member communities, has expressed that they feel a sense of belonging from participating on this Committee. They have a true ownership role in ensuring projects move forward, taking into account their knowledge and experience. For more information on the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit:

Banners Installed to Honour Residential School Attendees and Families

September 28th, 2021

UBCO marks Orange Shirt Day with installation of banners











UBCO general science student Fiona Lizotte and Okanagan Nation Alliance Wellness Manager Jennifer Lewis, both members of the Syilx Okanagan Nation, hold up the Orange Shirt Day Banners now hanging across the campus.

UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, is installing orange banners across the campus in recognition of Orange Shirt Day and in preparation for the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The Okanagan campus is located on the traditional territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The banners were designed in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance with imagery from Syilx artist Billie Kruger, from the Okanagan Indian Band. In 2019, UBC Okanagan pledged to support Indigenous students, culture and scholarship through a public Declaration of Truth and Reconciliation Commitments, of which the campus continues to support and implement, says UBCO Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack.

“September 30 has for several years now been marked as Orange Shirt Day, a day when people are encouraged to wear orange to recognize the impacts of the residential school system,” says Cormack. “This year, Orange Shirt Day carries added significance.”

Orange Shirt Day was spearheaded by residential school Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who has shared her story widely to bring awareness to the impacts of these schools. And in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called for a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

In the wake of the uncovering of the remains of 215 children at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School this spring, and the subsequent investigations and findings of more children’s graves at residential schools across Canada, the federal government established September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.,

Pauline Terbasket, Okanagan Nation Alliance executive director, says the legacy of the Indian Residential School system has had devastating impacts on the Syilx Okanagan Nation that continue to be felt today.

“Our Nations, communities and families are grieving and processing as we walk together towards healing. Indigenous people and allies all have a role to play in this important work,” says Terbasket. “We encourage people to educate, participate and take action as we collectively continue iscmypnwiɬn əc xʷəstustn k’l’ isnxaʔcinəm—walking our learning forward.”

UBC Okanagan was welcomed to Syilx Okanagan Nation territory in 2005 and has a memorandum of understanding with the Okanagan Nation Alliance. In addition to UBC’s Declaration of Truth and Reconciliation commitments, the 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan represents a university-wide response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice.

As the work continues, UBC encourages all members of the community to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, whether through personal reflection, education or by participating in Orange Shirt Day events within the community.

Cormack says UBC is committed to advancing Indigenous human rights through truth and reconciliation.

“UBC’s Okanagan campus has the honour and privilege of being founded and working in close partnership with the Syilx Okanagan Nation,” says Cormack. “We stand in support and grieve with Residential School attendees, survivors and families on September 30 and each day that follows. We must reflect on our past and the importance of our continued work to move forward on our campus’ commitments in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”











Fiona Lizotte shows the meaningful text displayed on the ONA’s official Orange Shirt Day T-shirts.











Fiona Lizotte, who is UBCO’s Indigenous Programs and Service Science Tutor, passes an Orange Shirt Day Banner to UBCO facilities services assistant Valentijn Leibbrand for installation on campus.

Media Contact:
Tara Montgomery
ONA Communications Lead
Phone: 1-250-707-0095 ext.120

Okanagan Nation Alliance

Patty Wellborn
Media Relations Strategist | University Relations
The University of British Columbia | Okanagan campus
Phone: 250-317-0293





About the Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBC Okanagan
UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of  Syilx Okanagan Territory within British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. UBC is deeply committed to Indigenous partnerships and when first established in 2005 UBC embarked on a new relationship with Indigenous peoples of these lands by signing an MOU with the Chiefs solidifying this commitment. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. The Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.


Taking a Stand with Orange Shirt Design

September 21st, 2021

Description of Imagery: 

This image depicts a flying bird with rainbow wings, lined with the statements “əts ha’ stim iʔ scəcmalaʔ” and “puti kʷu aláʔ” — which translates to “every child matters” and “we are still here”. These phrases are like the wind beneath the bird’s wings that are lifting them up and supporting them — much like how such affirmations help our people rise up and soar.








Designed by Billie Kruger


In the story of “qʷʕay snk̓lip” (Blue Coyote), snk̓lip continues to battle the nʔałnasqilxʷtn (people eaters). He struggles with his mental health after the weight of his journeys takes a toll on his spirit. He is reminded by his loved ones to take care of himself to properly fulfill his purpose. He returns to the siwɬkʷ (water) where he sees a bird bathing in the river. This bird is seen after snk̓lip opens his eyes from crying and crying until there were no tears left. He sees the bird washing themselves, and is encouraged to do the same. Once washed, snk̓lip shakes his fur, creating a rainbow with the mist. siwɬkʷ is considered medicine and a release for the trauma and pain he is carrying, which symbolizes how our smallest to biggest warriors need to heal. This bird is also referred to as a “they/them” and has colouring of a rainbow on its wings as a representation of our Syilx 2SLGBTQIA+ relatives.

This imagery advocates for our inclusivity, transformation, and the importance of self-care, and was chosen for our orange shirts to carry on the healing of our people from traumatic events such as impacts from Indian Residential Schools, while reinforcing the importance of kʷu k̓ʷul̓ɬt iʔ spuʔús — taking care of your heart. In the face of such impacts, and as we grapple with the trauma created by colonial practices and institutions, we affirm that “əts ha’ stim iʔ scəcmalaʔ” (every child matters). On top of this, we emphasize “puti kʷu aláʔ” (we are still here), a testament to Syilx persistence and resilience — that even in the face of extraordinary challenges we are thriving and be here for generations to come.











About the artist:

Billie Kruger is a Syilx Okanagan Nation interdisciplinary artist from the Okanagan Indian Band. She studied at the En’owkin Center and Paul Creek Language Association, and is a beginner nsyilxcən speaker. Billie has created many works: sewing, beading, and traditional art practice. She has a strong connection to the land and her ancestors, to which she attributes her success as an artist.

Moves Toward Decommissioning Wilsey Dam Another Step to Returning ntitiyx (Salmon) to All Parts of Syilx Territory

September 20th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:  After decades of advocating, the Okanagan Nation Alliance commends BC Hydro’s important step towards decommissioning Wilsey Dam and the Shuswap Falls Powerhouse. BC Hydro will now move forward planning for the decommission and prepare an application to the BC Utilities Commission to obtain approval to cease operations at the facility. These actions are expected to be complete within the next 12 to 18 months.

“We have been working specifically towards fish passage at Wilsey Dam since the late 1990’s.  This journey has been long with constant changes, circling around and morphing into what we are working with today. By decommissioning this dam we hope to see our social, cultural and food fishery flourishOkanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis stated.

For the Syilx Nation, there is an important spiritual cultural and economic significance with restoring salmon and resident species above Wilsey Dam.  Historically, our people would gather and work together to fish for salmon and trout from the river at the swʕawił (Shuswap Falls). Since 1929, when the Wilsey dam was created, salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye) and other resident species like bull and rainbow trout have been blocked from being able to perform their upstream migration. This blockage prevented them from accessing nearly 30 kilometers of spawning and rearing habitat on the Shuswap River.

“As Syilx people, we have an inherent right and responsibility to continue working to bring ntitiyx back to all parts of our territory, including that on the spəlm’cin (Shuswap River). Decommissioning Wilsey Dam would be a step in the right direction towards not only salmon recovery, but also ensuring that benefits for siwɬkʷ and the tmixʷ and all habitat” stated Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair.

“The ONA have been actively involved in habitat restoration and multispecies stock assessment throughout the Shuswap River system for years. Through our continued involvement on the Wilsey Fish Passage Committee we have also been part of technical and environmental feasibility studies that lay the groundwork for bringing the system back to it’s original state “ Shayla Lawrence, ONA biologist, also confirmed.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the 8 member communities of the Okanagan Nation.

For information please contact:

ki law na, Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
T: 250-498-9132

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager
T: 1-250-718-5215

Media Release

Voting in the 2021 Federal Elections

September 17th, 2021

Greetings to our dear Elders, Leaders, and community members.

With the greatest respect, we ask for your help and appeal for your support.

We are working on getting out the vote on Election Day. One of our most important efforts in this campaign is to reach Indigenous voters and make it easy for them to vote. Election Day is this upcoming Monday, September 20 and the polls are open from 7am-7pm.

We are calling upon you to assist in these efforts by assigning your staff to help getting community members out to vote. They can do this by:

  • offering to drive people to and from the polling station
  • announcing voting information on local radio (ID requirements and voting hours)
  • helping people to gather the required ID and confirmation of residency (if necessary)
  • posting information on community social media pages (with ID requirements and voting hours)
  • encouraging voters to go with family members or friends

Finally, please be available to sign the attached Confirmation of Residence forms that can serve as one of two pieces of ID needed for people to vote (see attached). You will write the voter’s name on the form and the name of the First Nation. The Chief, a council member, or band manager (administrator) can sign the form. This signed letter, as well one other piece of ID, will allow a person to vote.

With your support and leadership, we can see another tremendous voter turnout in the 2021 federal election.








Confirmation of Residence

Access to sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (OK Falls) fishery Update

September 9th, 2021

The site of the sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Okanagan Falls) salmon fishery is an important area in Syilx Okanagan Nation Territory. Prior to colonization it was the second largest inland fisheries on Syilx territory, and was a central part of our food, social and economic fisheries.

Access has been an issue that the CEC have brought forward for many years, due to the obstruction over the last few years of the a adjacent private property owners near the fishing location. It has been clearly proven that Nation members have used a 10-meter buffer of “Crown land” between the fishery and private property adjacent to the dam to access the fishery and exercise their Aboriginal fishing rights.

This year the private landowners have attempted to have the lands resurveyed to make the buffer part of their private lands. This has happened alongside personal intimidation tactics by the private landowners, which has included signage with racial slurs. In response, the CEC directed that negotiations be undertaken with the Province of BC to ensure that the buffer area does not become private lands and that safe, long-term access to the fishery is maintained.

In 2020, in response to the CEC’s calls for immediate provincial action, BC removed a fence that had been installed by the private landowners, which allowed the Syilx Okanagan Nation fishery to proceed. This year the Province of BC has pledged to remove any barriers to ensure safe access for Syilx Okanagan fishers. In the meantime, as directed by the CEC, negotiations between the Syilx Okanagan Nation and the Province continue in order to find long-term solutions to the access issues at Okanagan Falls, to ensure that Syilx Okanagan Nation members can continue to exercise their Aboriginal rights at this important fishery site.

If you are a Syilx member who experiences harassment or physical intimidation while accessing our traditional fishing grounds, we encourage you to remain diligent and report it to your Chief or the RCMP with any reports.

For more info please contact:
ki law na (yilmixwm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair
Tel: 250-498-9132

Access to sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (OK Falls) fishery Update


Syilx Okanagan Nation Call for an Emergency Order to Halt Big Horn Sheep Hunting as Populations are Decimated by Blue Tongue Disease

September 2nd, 2021

nk’mcinm (Grand Forks), Syilx Territory: Over the last weeks the California Big Horn Sheep herd near nk’mcinm (Grand Forks) has been decimated by bluetongue disease epidemic. This disease has created a widespread die off in most of the herd in a short period of time. The number of dead is expected to continue to climb.

Bluetongue disease is uncommon in British Columbia, though it has affected herds south of the border. It is spread by the Culicoides biting fly, which is thought to of arrived due to changes in environmental conditions and wind.

“This disease, as it currently stands, is exacerbated by this drought period, and is will most likely be more common due to human caused climate change,” stated Addison Fosberry, ONA Wildlife Biologist.

Currently, there are still several hunting tags that the Province of BC has issued for this population – having been issued before the epidemic was identified.

ki law na (y̓il̓mixʷm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair, states: “The ability of these big horn sheep to survive is gravely threatened by the recent outbreak of bluetongue disease. We are demanding the Province of BC place an emergency order to immediately suspend the bighorn sheep hunting season, which opened this week, to allow those animals still alive an opportunity to begin to recover. We are also calling on those that currently do hold hunting tags to abstain from hunting these animals.”

At this time there is no evidence that bluetongue disease can transmit to humans, though there are concerns that it may also infect white tail and mule deer. If you harvest a sick animal, we ask that you report them to Addison Fosberry, ONA Wildlife Biologist: 1-250-300-8226. We advise that meat is not consumed until there is better evidence of how the disease interacts with humans.

For further info contact:

ki law na (̓yilmixwm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair
Tel: 250-498-9132

MEDIA RELEASE – Bluetongue Disease

Wildfire Safety Information

August 16th, 2021

The 2021 wildfire season has arrived early in BC with devastating consequences. Wildfires can start easily and spread quickly. Knowing what to do in an emergency is critical to ensuring the health and safety of your community members and protecting your critical infrastructure. For more details please visit:

If you are evacuated and need assistance…

1. Go to your nearest evacuation reception centre

The reception centre will be listed on your evacuation order.

For an up-to-date list of evacuation alerts and orders, or information on how to find a reception centre, call the provincial Emergency Support Services line at 1-800-585-9559 or go to The support line is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

2. Register for Emergency Support Services

People who are on evacuation alert or ordered to evacuate can register to receive Emergency Support Services from the Province of BC. If your local emergency program asks you to self-register, you can do it easily using the Evacuation Registration Assistance tool at It’s important to register even if you don’t need accommodation.

Help to Reunite with Loved Ones and Family Members

If you are looking for someone that has been impacted or displaced by wildfires, or you want your loved ones to know that you are okay, call the Canadian Red Cross Family Reunification line at 1-800-863-6582. This service is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

FNHA Environmental Health Officers

The FNHA’s Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) can support communities to navigate emergency wildfire response pathways and access supplies and services. Community leaders are encouraged to contact their Regional EHO between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. After-hours support is also available. Find your local EHO at

Wildfire Smoke

Air Cleaning and Clean Air Shelters

The FNHA has a limited number of portable air cleaners / purifiers available for First Nations people who are at high risk of illness from wildfire smoke.

For more information, and for advice on how to create clean air shelters for people affected by smoke, visit FNHA Environmental Health Officers are available to support the development of clean air shelters. They are currently contacting all impacted First Nations. Contact your local Emergency Health Officer through the FNHA Regional Office with any questions. For the latest air quality readings in the province, visit

Cooling Centres

In times of extreme or extended periods of above average temperatures, communities can set up cooling centers in local common spaces. These are usually set up as needed and are advertised on local channels, such as social media, town webpages, newspapers and community information boards.

If you need to find a cooling center, please contact the community center or band office nearest to you.

Highways Conditions and Road Closures

To check if routes are clear for travel, follow @DriveBC on Twitter or visit

Wellness and Mental Health Supports


There is unique trauma to First Nations regarding wildfire evacuations, which goes beyond loss of home or cherished valuables. The Okanagan Nation Response Team, Sәx kәnxit әlx “Those Who Help” is a team of community members who have received extensive training in the areas of suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response.

Charlotte Whitehead, ONRT Senior Coordinator
C: 250-869-9350

The FNHA is committed to keeping access open to health benefits and services.

Many people displaced by fires may have lost access to life-sustaining health services, including medications. To contact Health Benefits about coverage for health and wellness services, medical transportation or medical supplies and equipment, call 1-855-550-5454 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

For more information on health and wellness supports for evacuees, please visit

For non-emergency health information and services visit or call 8-1-1 toll-free, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are having a health emergency, dial 9-1-1 or a local emergency contact number immediately.​

  • Latest News from the BC’s Wildfire Management Branch:
  • Review the Wildfires of Note regularly for the latest updates:
  • Take note of the daily Fire Danger Rating Map issued by the Wildfire Management Branch:
  • To find Air Quality Advisories issues by the BC Ministry of Environment:
  • For additional resources on Wildland Fire Preparedness, Prevention, and Current Situations, please visit EMBC’s Wildland Fire Information:
  • For information regarding Emergency Management Preparedness for individuals and families, visit Public Safety Canada’s website:

Okanagan Nation Alliance Release the 2020 – 2021 Annual Report

July 30th, 2021

We are pleased to present to you the Okanagan Nation Alliance Annual Report for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which reports on initiatives, activities, partnerships and progress as we work to uphold the Okanagan Nation Declaration. From our work defending and asserting Title and Rights, to continued efforts to call salmon back to the territory, or promoting the self-determination of Syilx Okanagan communities, the work of the Nation has been wide ranging. Please share with any organizations and people that would benefit from better understanding the work of the Syilx Okanagan Nation over the last year.

2020 -2021 Okanagan Nation Alliance Annual Report


The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan to work collectively on areas of common concern and to advance and assert Syilx Okanagan Nation Title and Rights over Syilx Okanagan Territory. The ONA Chiefs Executive Council (CEC) is dedicated to upholding our inherent rights and responsibilities.

Building a Better Future Bursary Receipents

July 29th, 2021

The ability of Syilx students to access post-secondary education is central to our Nation moving forward and our voices being heard.

Each year the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Fortis BC provide two awards of $1200.00 to financially support eligible Syilx/ Okanagan Nation members enrolled or accepted into a recognized university or college on a full-time basis in a minimum 2 year program. As of 2020 we also received donations from Hi-Trax, Lance McLean (PIB) and Progressive Fence, thus we are able to offer two additional $1200.00 bursaries. The Building a Better Future Bursary has been granted every year since 2009.

This year the Okanagan Nation Alliance is pleased to announce four bursaries as part of this year’s Building a Better Future Bursary Program. The 2021 recipients are:














































For more information on the Building a Better Future Bursary please visit:


Syilx Okanagan Nation Celebrate Osoyoos Indian Band’s Land Purchase on the Lower Arrow Lakes

July 28th, 2021

snɬuxwqnm (Castlegar), Syilx Territory:  On July 28, 2021, the Syilx Okanagan Nation — including many Leaders, Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers — came together to celebrate the Osoyoos Indian Band’s recent acquisition of 9.5 acres of land along the Lower Arrow Lakes, just outside of snɬuxwqnm.

We are grateful that our Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Elders were present at this formal land recognition, as they grounded the gathering in prayer, our nsyilxcen language, and traditional Syilx songs specific to the region.

ki law na (y̓il̓mixʷm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair stated that “This recent land acquisition is not only for members of the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), it’s for all Syilx Okanagan people to come out, enjoy and to use. This land provides a place for every Syilx person to be able to get out on the land and water, to be able to fish, hunt, and gather. The access to this land represents another step on the path to our Nation continuing to reconnect to salt’ik’wt and all parts of the eastern territories.”

We would like to recognize and say lim’ limpt to OIB for the recent purchase, and will look forward to further opportunities in the near future.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the 8 member communities of the Okanagan Nation. The ONA mandate is to work collectively to advance and assert Syilx Okanagan Nation Title and Rights over the Syilx Okanagan Nation Territory.

For more information please contact:
ki law na (y̓il̓mixʷm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal
Tel:  250-498-9132

MEDIA RELEASE- OIB Land Recognition

Syilx Okanagan Nation Gather and Stand for Unity at Annual General Assembly

July 27th, 2021

snɬuxwqnm (Castlegar), Syilx Territory:  From July 27 – 28, 2021, the Okanagan Nation Alliance hosted an Annual General Assembly in snɬuxwqnm. This event saw Syilx Okanagan members from across the Nation — including leaders, Elders, youth and community members —gather to celebrate the many successes that have taken place for our people over the last year, and reflect on the persistent challenges that we collectively face together. In particular, this event carried significance as it is one of the first times since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March, 2020, that many of our Nation members have been able to safely gather. Being able to come together as a Nation is central to affirming our connections with one another, our land and territory.

ki law na (y̓il̓mixʷm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair, stated that: “We have a lot at stake in our work to keep advancing our inherent rights as Indian people—safeguarding and asserting those rights for our future generations. There continue to be politics that we must confront, manage, and overcome. Our youth need to be inspired with dreams of serving our Nation. They must see that we are all from here and not let colonial thinking keep us divided. These are not our ways. Colonialism and historic injustices keep us apart. We must work hard to keep open dialogue so that we move forward together as stated in our Unity Declaration of 2009.”

Alongside pertinent presentations and dialogues, there was also a variety of cultural activities taking place, including on-the-land tours to Syilx ancestral villages, Nation restoration and monitoring projects, alongside in-depth presentations on the Syilx Language Declaration.

This year was also important in that it took place in the eastern part of Syilx territory. The Syilx Okanagan Nation’s connection to the territory has been profoundly affected by the Columbia River Treaty (CRT). It’s dams industrialized the Columbia River system, destroyed thousands of square kilometers of land, permanently disrupted natural ecosystems, and threatened many species that call this territory home. The flooding destroyed historical Syilx Okanagan villages, sacred sites, burial grounds, and food harvesting areas, breaking many of the cultural and familial connections our communities held with the Upper Columbia and nx̌ wntkwitkw (Columbia River). By journeying out and being on the land together to share in our Syilx history, stories and perspectives, we are working to ensure that these connections continue to be handed down for generations to come.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the 8 member communities of the Okanagan Nation. The ONA mandate is to work collectively to advance and assert Syilx Okanagan Nation Title and Rights over the Syilx Okanagan Nation Territory.

For further information please contact:
Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
Tel:  250-498-9132

MEDIA RELEASE- Syilx Okanagan Nation's Annual General Assembly

Fish Passage Initiatives in 2021 at Okanagan Lake Dam in Penticton

June 30th, 2021


  • In 1997, the Syilx Community expressed serious concerns about the potential extinction of the Okanagan Sockeye population. At that time, returning Sockeye spawners had been reduced to a few thousand upstream of Osoyoos Lake.
  • The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) has led Sockeye fry out-planting projects at Skaha and Okanagan lakes as part of a broader set of initiatives supported by the three party (ONA, DFO, BC-FLNRORD) Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group (COBTWG) to restore Okanagan salmon populations within their historic range.
  • Introductions of Sockeye Salmon within the Okanagan Basin began with the first capture of wild adults for hatchery brood stock in fall of 2003 followed by introductions of hatchery fry into Skaha Lake in most years since 2004.
  • The first major introduction of hatchery-origin Sockeye fry (750,000) into Okanagan Lake occurred in spring 2017.
  • Hatchery-origin adult Sockeye Salmon originating from the spring 2017 introduction returned in small numbers (a few hundred) as adults aggregating below Okanagan Lake Dam in Penticton in 2019. A large spawning run (25,000+) returned in 2020, and a significant number of adult returns are expected in 2021-2022.
  • The Okanagan Lake Dam at Penticton is a barrier to fish passage. The current dam was constructed in 1953 and included a fish-way. However, except for a brief trial period in 2019 and a longer trial in 2020, the fish-way has never been operated. The effectiveness of the fish- way in supporting adult fish passage at varying flows remains unknown.


  • A controlled, trial operation of the fish-way in the Okanagan Lake Dam was achieved in the fall of 2020. In 2021, the trial will be repeated given the expected return of similar or slightly lower numbers of adult Sockeye as in 2020.

The kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery, owned by ONA and located on Penticton Indian Reserve, was
constructed in 2013-2014. Full operation started in the Fall 2014, with the first fry release
from kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ into Skaha Lake occuring in the Spring of 2015.


  • A step-wise approach has been initiated to provide fish passage at Okanagan Lake Dam. The Fish Passage Team/ COBTWG approved the project in 2019.
  • Investigation of Okanagan Lake Dam fish passage options and testing of the fish-way began in 2019 and continued in 2020. Activities proposed for 2021 include: (1) activation of the fish- way to test whether salmonids, including adult salmon, can effectively navigate the ladder and access Okanagan Lake; (2) installation of a trap at the lake-side of the fish-way to control the number and species of fish entering Okanagan Lake; and (3) tagging of 100 (including 50- 60 telemetry-tagged) adult Sockeye salmon for release into Okanagan Lake. Tagged fish will be monitored and provide information on spawning-site selection, spawn-timing, and interactions with resident stocks. All adult, hatchery-origin Sockeye salmon that are surplus to both brood stock or monitoring needs will support food, social and cultural (FSC) harvest by ONA member nations.
  • The approximate timeline for fishway activation and Sockeye tagging is mid-September until mid-October, 2021
  • This controlled approach minimizes biological risk to aquatic ecosystems, and provides Provincial, Federal and ONA fisheries staff with data that will inform future management decisions regarding potential impacts to or opportunites for recreational fisheries. Information garnered from fish-passage trials will also inform dam-management and fishway operations by Okanagan Lake Regulation System staff.


    Ryan Benson, Fisheries Biologist Okanagan Nation Alliance
    Ph: 250-707-0095 ext. 309 Email:

    Athena Ogden, Aquatic Science Biologist
    Regional Ecosystem Effects on Fish and Fisheries
    Science Branch, Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada Phone: 250-756-3375

    Tara White, Senior Fisheries Biologist Government of British Columbia Thompson-Okanagan region
    Phone: 778-622-6839


Fish Passage Initiatives in 2021 at Okanagan Lake Dam in Penticton

Syilx Nation’s For the Children Caravan Unites the Nation and Demands Justice for All the Children Who Never Returned From Indian Residential Schools

June 27th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: On June 26, 2021, a convoy of Syilx leaders, Indian Residential School survivors, their families (intergenerational), elders, members, and youth from across the Nation journeyed from sn’pinktn (Penticton) to the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This caravan is a direct response to the lack of justice in the face of recent discovery of the burial sites of 215 children at Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) and 751 children at the Marieval Indian Residential School reported by the Cowessess First Nation. This Caravan gathered our people together in unity to support the survivors and each other through the emotional impacts of the recent findings. It also brought awareness to all those that are just now finding their relatives, as well as demonstrating our support for and alliance with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.

As the Caravan went through various municipalities it drew out supporters and allies that acknowledged  the Caravan from the sides of the roads. The Caravan ended with a powerful ceremony at KIRS, including a song led by Syilx children and youth, a clear statement of resilience of Syilx culture in the face of colonial violence.

Chief Clarence Louie states that, “Today we have come together as a Nation to support each other, our families and ultimately our Nation. The truth of the matter is that these missing children have been known about all along, our Syilx Indian Residential School survivors has been calling it out for years. To date, the Government of Canada has failed at taking any meaningful action or accountability for these atrocities.  At this point we are demanding local, provincial and federal officials finally step up to the plate, take direct action on finding justice for these children, and begin implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action.”

Syilx Indian Residential School survivors recently demanded at an Indian Residential School Gathering that “Colonial institutions like residential schools have tried to rob us of our identity, but we are resilient. We need to continue to gather as we always have to continue to pass our culture and language down so that we can thrive for generations to come.”


The Syilx Indian Residential School (SIRS) Committee is a group of highly dedicated, intergenerational Syilx Indian Residential School survivors. The SIRS Committe is invaluable in providing direction to the Nation on numerous projects regarding the Indian Residential Schools. This Committee, represented by the seven member communities, has expressed that they feel a sense of belonging and healing from participating on this Committee. They have a true ownership role in ensuring projects move forward, taking into account their knowledge and experience. For more information on the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit:

For more information contact:
Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead
T: 1-250-707-0095 ext. 120

MEDIA RELEASE – For the Children Caravan