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.

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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: www.syilx.org/wellness/our-programs-and-services/children-and-families/

 

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.

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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. 

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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: www.syilx.org/wellness/indian-residential-school/


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
Email:
TMontgomery@syilx.org

Okanagan Nation Alliance

Patty Wellborn
Media Relations Strategist | University Relations
The University of British Columbia | Okanagan campus
Phone: 250-317-0293
Email:
patty.wellborn@ubc.ca

 

 

 

 

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

 Background: 

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.

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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: www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/wildfire-emergency-contacts-and-supports-2021

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 emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/wildfires-2021. 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 ess.gov.bc.ca. 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 fnha.ca/what-we-do/environmental-health.

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.ca/wildfire. 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 bcairquality.ca/readings.

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 drivebc.ca.

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
E: criticalresponse@syilx.org

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 fnha.ca/wildfire.

For non-emergency health information and services visit HealthLinkBC.ca 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: http://bcwildfire.ca/
  • Review the Wildfires of Note regularly for the latest updates: http://bcwildfire.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/OneFire.asp
  • Take note of the daily Fire Danger Rating Map issued by the Wildfire Management Branch: http://bcwildfire.ca/Weather/Maps/danger_rating.htm
  • To find Air Quality Advisories issues by the BC Ministry of Environment: http://www.bcairquality.ca/
  • For additional resources on Wildland Fire Preparedness, Prevention, and Current Situations, please visit EMBC’s Wildland Fire Information: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery
  • For information regarding Emergency Management Preparedness for individuals and families, visit Public Safety Canada’s website: http://www.getprepared.gc.ca

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

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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: www.syilx.org/about-us/operations/building-a-better-future-bursary/

 


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.

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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

BACKGROUND/HISTORY:

  • 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.

    GOAL:

  • 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.

APPROACH:

  • 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.

    PROGRAM CONTACTS:

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

    Athena Ogden, Aquatic Science Biologist
    Regional Ecosystem Effects on Fish and Fisheries
    Science Branch, Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada Phone: 250-756-3375
    Email: Athena.Ogden@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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

    Email: Tara.White@gov.bc.ca

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: www.syilx.org/wellness/indian-residential-school/

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

MEDIA RELEASE – For the Children Caravan


Media Advisory: 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 24th, 2021

 tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation’s ‘For the Children’ Caravan will start at 9:00 am on June 26, 2021, and will a convoy of Syilx leaders, Indian Residential School survivors, their families (intergenerational), elders, members, and youth from across the Nation journey 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 715 children at the Marieval Indian Residential School reported by the Cowessess First Nation, alongside many others nationwide. It gathers our people together in unity and support the survivors and each other through the emotional impacts of the recent findings. It also brings awareness to all those just now finding their relatives, alongside showing our support for and alliance with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. A ceremony at the Kamloops Indian Residential School will take place after the caravan.

We all have a role to play. Non-Syilx allies interested in contributing can:

EDUCATE

Educating yourself on the history and ongoing impacts of the Indian Residential School system is foundational to becoming an ally. For a wealth of resources regarding the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit: www.syilx.org/wellness/indian-residential-school/. The ONA’s “Take the Indian Out the Child” book can also be purchased at: https://www.syilx.org/shop/

ADVOCATE

We are calling on all Canadian citizens to contact your local, provincial, and federal elected officials to demand that they act on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report Calls to Action. To learn more about the TRC and it’s findings visit: http://www.trc.ca/

PARTICIPATE

Non-Syilx allies looking to support the Caravan on June 26th are asked to line Highway 97 close to your nearest caravan location and times (provided below) to cheer on the participants. You can also donate to the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee by e-transfering donations to etransfertd@syilx.org, using the password “nation”. Please indicate in the comment box that it is for the SIRSC.

For more information or media interested in covering the Caravan please contact:

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

Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manager
T: 250-826-7844
E: wellness.manager@syilx.org

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead

T: 1-250-707-0095 ext. 120

E: tmontgomery@syilx.org

Syilx Okanagan members interested in joining the Caravan should contact:

Raven Mikuletic, ONA Event Planner

T: 1-250-707-0095 ext. 12

E: events.support@syilx.org

CARAVAN TIMES & START LOCATIONS
The time listed below is the time that vehicles should be departing. Please arrive 20-30 mins prior to that time.

South Okanagan Events Centre | 9:00 AM
853 Eckhardt Ave W, Penticton, BC

Westbank First Nation Office | 9:50 AM
515 Hwy 97 South Kelowna BC

Vernon Okanagan College Campus | 10:50 AM
7000 College Way, Coldstream, BC

Douglas Lake Road | 11:40 AM
Douglas Lake Road, Westwold, BC

Kamloops Petro-Pass  | 12:10 PM
175 Kokanee Way, Kamloops, BC

Kamloops Indian Residential School | 12:30 PM
330 Chief Alex Thomas Way, Kamloops BC

Ceremony at Kamloops Indian Residential School | 1:00 PM

MEDIA ADVISORY – For the Children Caravan


Return of sc’win (sockeye) to Syilx Okanagan Territory

June 15th, 2021

Expect sc’win (sockeye) in nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) within the next 6-9 days, and shortly thereafter, to sxʷ̌  əxʷnitkʷ (Ok Falls)!

This year we are expecting a lower-than-average run of sc’win. Therefore, fisheries management recommendations will focus on food fisheries (trolling in Osoyoos Lake and angling at Okanagan Falls). Likelihood of a commercial fishery is very low.

An estimated 1% (3,816) adult sockeye were counted at Bonneville Dam upstream of the mouth of Columbia River on June 13, 2021.  In-season forecasts for returning sockeye to Bonneville Dam is expected at 112,600 adults, of which 80-85% are migrating to the Okanagan (Osoyoos, Skaha, and Okanagan Lake). We anticipate 31,000 to 62,000 adults migrating into Osoyoos Lake between end of June through early October.

Based on fisheries management, a food fishery will be open to all Syilx Okanagan members.

Call for Syilx Okanagan Nation members to participate in sockeye monitoring research

As part of our monitoring efforts, ONA fisheries creelers and biologists will be on site soliciting members to participate in sockeye research at the fishing grounds in OK falls, Osoyoos lake, and McIntyre Dam. For those Syilx members interested in participating we will be requesting permission to sample adult fish you catch to:  recover tags, take a small DNA samples, measurement the length, and ear bones for aging. Your participation is greatly appreciated as it informs our work in enhancing and protecting salmon stocks.

If you notice tags in a fish or have any other questions please contact:
Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager
e: hwright@syilx.org
t: 1-250-718-5215

ONA_Fishery_ Notice_2021


Okanagan Nation’s Spirit of Syilx Unity Run Makes Emotional Journey to Kamloops Indian Residential School to Recognize All Children that Never Returned Home

June 8th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: From June 2-5 Syilx Nation members from across the territory ran out on the land as part of the Spirit of Syilx Unity Run. On Saturday, June 5, 2021, a special component of the run included an in-person event that went from nkm̓apəlqs (Head of the Lake) to the Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc territory, in just one day, and was a recognition for all the children that never returned from the KIRS.  For participants in this year’s Unity Run was particularly emotional and hard hitting as many are the children and grandchildren of Indian Resident School Survivors.

“Watching our youth run for the 215 children that never made it home was a humbling and emotional experience. It was healing for our people, healing for our survivors, and lifted the hearts of a Nation in mourning. Witnessing this historic run and to be welcomed with song and ceremony by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc people is something we will all remember. It was an historic event, that was led by our youth, and inspired by the 215 children. Limlemt to all those who participated and to those who organized this historic event,” Chief Chris Derickson states.

Leaders from multiple Nations — alongside Syilx Okanagan members — welcomed the runners as they crested over the hill at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, including y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Keith Crow (LSIB) and y̓il̓mixʷm Chris Derickson (WFN) from the Syilx Okanagan Nation, kukpi Rosanne Casimir, Councillor Marie Baptiste and Councillor Jeanette Jules of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation and kukpi Judy Wilson from the Neskonlith Indian Band.

As we wrap up this event we recognize that actions such as these support our youth and ensure that they are able to affirm a better life moving forward, while also raising awareness of the colonial violence that our people have faced and continue to face.

~

In 2009, Syilx youth had requested a Run to promote unity as well as bring awareness to the issues of suicide and violence within the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The annual run provides the opportunity to experience being out on the territory, being together as a Nation as a means to address a broad range of community and societal issues from suicide and mental health to cultural rejuvenation and reconnection with nationhood and the land. It also brings together youth to create awareness, cultivate pride, and promotes the continuation of Syilx culture for generations to come.

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

MEDIA RELEASE – Unity Run Goes to KIRS


Spirit of Syilx Unity Run – Community Profile

June 5th, 2021

In 2009, Syilx youth had requested a Run to promote unity as well as bring awareness to the issues of suicide and violence within the Nation. From this the Spirit of Syilx Unity Run came to be. The annual run provides the opportunity to experience being out on the territory, being together as a Nation as a means to address a broad range of community and societal issues from suicide and mental health to cultural rejuvenation and reconnection with nationhood and the land. It also brings together youth to create awareness, cultivate pride, and promotes the continuation of Syilx culture for generations to come.

cewelna (Leon Louis) and Grouse (Wilfred) Barnes are members of the Okanagan Nation Response Team, a team made up of community members that support the Nation communities to prevent and respond to suicide, suicidal behavior and other crisis, for numerous years utilizing their cultural knowledge and perspectives. It is through this role that they have been a guiding presence on the run year after year.

“By running on the land our people are connecting to each other, to the tmxʷulaxʷ, and to all of our ancestors. When they are on the Run we are teaching them about our culture, place names, our captikwł, it gives them an identity of who they are. To be proud of who they are.” – Grouse (Wilfred) Barnes

As the cultural support people on the Run they often gather the participants to give teachings rooted in our Syilx worldview (when we are able to gather in person)— shining a light on the transformative power of prayers and intentions while they leave their footprints across Syilx territory. Whether it has been through sharing captikwl or parts of the language, they have worked tirelessly to provide hundreds of Unity Run participants with a sense of pride and honor in being Syilx. There is probably no better show of this support than in how they pass the feather off to the first runner to launch the event every year.

cewelna is also a member of the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee, so this year the run has a special weight and importance — as this year we run for the 215 children who never made it home from the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“The people who went [to Indian Residential Schools] encountered a lot of hurts and pains. When they had children, they passed that on to them. And then their children pass it on. It’s in our genes, the hurts and pains we’ve been through. When we begin to heal, then we don’t pass these on. Then it’s not in our genes anymore.” —Leon Louis, Son of Leonard Louis, who attended Indian Residential School

As we face a particularly heartbreaking moment in our Nation, and take on the pain unearthed from the findings at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, such words give us hope and guidance as we grapple with the violence that our communities have faced.

In 2018 the Okanagan Nation Alliance and this Committee released the ‘Take the Indian Out the Child’ book, which gathered stories from Syilx Indian Residential School survivors and their families and told the story of the extremely violent and forced assimilation that they faced at these institutions. To learn more about the Syilx Indian Residential School experience visit: www.syilx.org/wellness/indian-residential-school/

#forthepeople

Spirit of Syilx Unity Run – Community Profile


The Spirit of Syilx Unity Run Recognizes All “Survivors”

June 2nd, 2021

The 13th Annual Spirit of Syilx Unity Run starts today June 2, and goes to June 7, 2021. After a small opening circle and prayer to kick off the run, this virtual event will see Syilx youth and members running out on the land in their own pods and communities, aimed at reaching the Kamloops Indian Residential school (KIRS)— to raise awareness about the disproportionate rates of violence and suicide that our communities confront.

This year’s Unity Run has a particular weight and importance as our Nation collectively grieves the recent uncovering of a mass grave of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Many syilx Indian Residential School Survivors are alive today, and were forcibly removed from their families and sent to KIRS. As the level of these atrocities and attempted genocide are made public, they shed light on deep wounds that our people have known about all along, as well as the intergenerational abuse, trauma and violence our Nation continues to endure.

Chief Chris Derickson opened the event, stating “We all know the violence that’s been committed against our people for centuries, and now we have the memory of 215 children that never made it home, and it’s our job to honor the memory of these children. It’s our job to make sure that the next generation lives a better life than this one, and the one that never made it. And I’m asking our Nation, our people, to really take it seriously, when we say that we are running to raise awareness for suicide prevention and violence prevention. The most terrible of which is the violence we commit against each other as Indigenous people in our communities. How we talk to one another. How we interact with one another. There are behaviors that can no longer be tolerated. If we’re going to honor the memory of these 215 children that never made it home, let’s make our homes better, let’s make our communities better, let’s make our Nation better, by honoring one another and treating each other as Syilx people. Understanding that how we treat each other determines the lives that our children will live.”

In the face of these traumas, Syilx people are gaining strength every day. As a Nation, we are working to reclaim and restore our traditional Syilx ways of being and knowing. We are the unconquered people of this land and have lived with our mother earth from the beginning of time. As runners lay their footprints down on the tmxʷulaxʷ (land) over the coming days they are affirming our inherent connection to the tmxʷulaxʷ and culture, while also connecting to ancestors. This Run not only raises awareness on these issues of violence, but also instills pride and the continuation of our Syilx culture and nsyilxcen language for generations to come.

__________

For our ancestors

For the tmixʷ that missed our presence

For the tmxʷulaxʷ that was calling us home

For the parents and grandparents who were robbed of their children

For the children who were taken away

For the families who bore their pain

For the generations of loss of language and culture

For those who never had a chance to speak

For those who choose not to speak

For those who have spoken and continue to speak

For all those effected by Indian residential school

For all our grandchildren, for all time.

Spirit of Syilx Unity Run Communications

 


Syilx Okanagan Nation Joins Other Nations Call for Accountability After Remains of 215 Residential School Victims Unearthed at Kamloops Indian Residential School

May 29th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation are shocked and profoundly saddened by the confirmation of 215 children’s remains found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School on Thursday, May 27, 2021.  Children from across many First Nation’s attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and this revelation is felt by every Syilx Okanagan family. This horrifying discovery has confirmed what our survivors and families have known and feared all along, that the violence and abuse far exceeded what was previously reported.

“The legacy of the Indian Residential School system has had devastating impacts on the Syilx Okanagan Nation that continue to be felt today. The level of inhumane and criminal treatment of First Nation’s children at the hands of colonial governments and organized religion is deeply disturbing. We are calling on the Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada to directly address these atrocities,” stated Chief Clarence Louie.

While the families, communities and Nations process this unthinkable discovery, it is important to remember the intense grief that Syilx Okanagan people and all Indian Residential School survivors will feel over the coming days, weeks, months and years. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief and Council hosted an Urgent Chiefs meeting today, in which Chief Clarence Louie added “I want to thank the Tk’emlups Chief and Council for arranging this meeting and inviting us to do and share what needs to be done,” and affirmed that “the Syilx Okanagan Nation are ready to participate and support wherever possible.”

As part of a collective, Nation-wide response, the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee is also asking that all members reach out to survivors and family members to check in and see if they need support. There are also cultural and social support and resources in our respective communities, our spiritual and cultural leaders in our Nations and communities.

As more information is received and preparations for ceremonies and more meetings continue we will keep you posted.

~

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
E: wellness.manager@syilx.org

MEDIA RELEASE – 215 Residential School Remains Uncovered


Syilx Okanagan Nation Call For Protection ki?lawna? (Grizzly Bear) After a Mother and Cub Spotted in the Okanagan

May 20th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: On May 11, 2021, a Kelowna resident filmed a rare sighting of a ki?lawna? (grizzly bear) mother and cub north of the city. Tragically, the bears were recorded eating garbage left on site.

For the Syilx people, ki?lawna? are a significant part of our laws and protocols. They are an important part of our creation stories that remind us of our responsibilities to our tmuxlawx (land). For generations, habitat fragmentation, ecosystem degradation and a number of other factors have contributed to the decline of ki?lawna?. Their declining population throughout Syilx Okanagan territory demonstrates that the health and security of the landscape is in dire need of protection.

ki?lawna? are an integral and critical part of Syilx Okanagan Nation culture since the beginning of time. The Syilx Okanagan territory was once home to a thriving population of ki?lawna?, however today they are often said to be extirpated from the area. In 2014, Syilx Okanagan Nation’s Chief Executive Council implemented a mandate to protect and recover ki?lawna? throughout our territory. We continue to implement this important work through a number of initiatives, including monitoring of an existing population of ki?lawna? in the Okanagan area. Monitoring efforts in the Okanagan region further assist in securing much needed funding and capacity to protect and manage their habitat,” states ki?lawna? (Chief Clarence Louie).

ki?lawna? have previously been thought to be extirpated from this part of Syilx Okanagan territory. However, ONA is working to document a population in the area, in partnership with FLNRORD and Environment Canada and Climate Change. Additionally, ONA leads the recovery of grizzly bears in the North Cascades, one of two critically endangered populations. We are also actively restoring important grizzly bear habitat in the Kettle Granby area, bordering the Okanagan to the south-east. Through these monitoring, recovery and restoration initiatives, ONA is working to meet our mandate to recover and protect grizzly bears throughout the region.

For further information, or to report a grizzly bear sighting, please contact:

Cailyn Glasser, MSc, ONA Natural Resource Manager
t: 1.250.707.0095 ext.213  c: 250-469-1595
e: cglasser@syilx.org

MEDIA RELEASE – Grizzly Bear Sighting


Bringing the Salmon Home Festival May 10-16, 2021

May 4th, 2021

You’re invited! Participate online at ColumbiaRiverSalmon.ca

For over 80 years salmon have been blocked by dams from returning to the upper Columbia River in the Kootenay region of British Columbia. The Columbia River was once the source of the greatest salmon runs in the world. Bringing the Salmon Home: The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative, the Indigenous-led project of the Syilx Okanagan, Ktunaxa and Secwépemc Nations, in partnership with Canada and BC, is exploring innovative ways to bring the salmon back.

Learn more about this vital work through the Bringing the Salmon Home Festival May 10-16, 2021 happening online at ColumbiaRiverSalmon.ca. The free online events include keynote presentations, salmon cooking classes, and sessions on food sovereignty and food security, Indigenous knowledge and western science, storytelling, and discussions with artists, musicians and poets.

Be first in line to register for the free festival events. See the full program at ColumbiaRiverSalmon.ca

Chief Keith Crow of the Syilx Okanagan Nation says, “The Syilx Okanagan Nation have a long-standing and successful record of salmon reintroduction in the Okanagan system of the Columbia watershed, with upwards of 500,000 sockeye now returning annually. We know, from decades of experience, that we do have the technology, and also that partnerships and collaboration are central to salmon restoration. The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative will take the same dedication to collaborative work, now with the other two Nations, to bring salmon back to the upper Columbia River region. We know reintroducing the salmon can be done, despite the many challenges.”

Kukpi7 Wayne Christian of the Secwepemc Nation says, “This Initiative is about providing both salmon and hope for our common future. As Indigenous Nations we know that this work is feasible. And it is our sacred responsibility. We’re excited to be co-hosting this Bringing the Salmon Home Festival as part of engaging community members in this important work.”

Sandra Luke, Chair of the Lands and Resources Sector Council of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, says,“Bringing the salmon home will require innovative and creative solutions from both technical experts and traditional knowledge holders from the three Nations. It is vital we work together with all governments to ensure we can find a way to bring salmon back to our homelands. The Bringing the Salmon Home Festival and The Columbia River Salmon Reintroduction Initiative are tremendous opportunities to showcase the importance of salmon to the Ktunaxa Nation, as well as to work collaboratively to achieve the goal of bringing the salmon back.”

For more information, please contact:

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead
T: 1-250-707-0095 ext. 120
E: tmontgomery@syilx.org


Grant to Help Planning to Protect Okanagan Lake

April 28th, 2021

A substantial grant will help with the multi-year collaborative planning effort to protect the environmental and cultural values of Okanagan Lake and its watershed.

The Vancouver Foundation is providing $300,000 to the partnership that is developing the Okanagan Lake Responsibility Strategy:

  • Okanagan Nation Alliance
  • Regional District of Central Okanagan
  • Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program
  • South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program

The strategy will enhance the ways of caring for, protecting, and restoring the values and interests of the Okanagan Lake shoreline and watershed tributaries. When complete, the strategy will provide the knowledge and expertise to assist with new land-use planning decisions that support common, consistent, and collaborative approaches to protect shoreline natural areas, prepare for and mitigate climate impacts, and promote sustainable development.

The partnership is key to the projects’ success and holds the greatest potential for finding solutions to complex land use issues. This initiative plans to shift the existing planning processes and outcomes through the support of project partners that include differing perspectives, a collective understanding, and a shared approach to the issues in the watershed.

It’s envisioned that communities across the Okanagan region and all levels of government will benefit from this unique, unified – Syilx led framework that aims to:

  • Address cumulative impacts of shoreline and upland development
  • Promote Best Management Practices and leadership in watershed governance
  • Provide learning and knowledge sharing opportunities

The initiative has received support from the Syilx Okanagan Nation, three Okanagan Regional Districts, and seven local governments. Other active partners include the Province of BC, the Okanagan Basin Water Board, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, UBC Okanagan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Contacts:
Cailyn Glasser
Natural Resources Manager
Okanagan Nation Alliance
250-707-0095

Scott Boswell
Program Manager
Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program
250-718-4096

Brittany Lange
Environmental Planner
Regional District of Central Okanagan
250-469-6149

Media Release – Okanagan Lake Grant


Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Aboriginal Rights in Arrow Lakes

April 23rd, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation welcome today’s decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Desautel, recognizing and protecting Sinixt Aboriginal hunting rights in B.C. Many members of our Syilx Okanagan Nation communities are descendants of Sinixt (sʔalt̕ik̓ʷt) people and we all share common language, culture, history, traditions and ancestry. As a result, this confirmation that Sinixt rights continue to exist in Syilx Okanagan Territory is critically important to our Nation, particularly given the Crown’s denial of those rights over many generations.    

The case was an appeal of the BC Court of Appeal’s decision that upheld that Richard DeSautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Confederated Colville Tribes and a United States citizen, has an Aboriginal right to hunt in the Arrow Lakes area of British Columbia.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Province’s appeal and confirmed some key legal principles:

  • The purposes of s. 35(1) are to recognize the prior occupation of Canada by Aboriginal societies and to reconcile their modern-day existence with the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty over them.
  • The honour of the Crown is engaged in its relationship with Aboriginal people and reconciliation is an imperative.
  • It is for Aboriginal peoples to define themselves and to choose by what means to make their decisions, according to their own laws, customs and practices.

In commenting on the decision, Chief Clarence Louie, Tribal Chair of the Chiefs’ Executive Council of the Syilx Okanagan Nation stated that: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed what we have always known: that the Sinixt (in our language, the sʔalt̕ik̓ʷt) are not extinct, and that the imposition of international boundaries and forced displacement of our people through colonization could not take away our Aboriginal rights.”

Chief Louie went on to note: “The international border between Canada and the US was imposed on our people without our consent. Our members were forced to choose which side of the border to live on – some moved south to the Colville reservation and others moved west to the Okanagan valley – but we continue to be united through our cultural, familial, territorial, economic and political ties. As nsyilxcen-speaking peoples, we will continue to advance and protect our Aboriginal title and rights in our territory.”

The ONA participated in the Supreme Court of Canada appeal, and two Syilx Okanagan Nation members – Richard Armstrong and Hazel Squakin – shared their knowledge of the Arrow Lakes area at Mr. Desautel’s trial. The Okanagan Nation Alliance and its Chiefs’ Executive Council represent Syilx Okanagan Nation members and are mandated to protect, advance and defend the Syilx Okanagan Nation’s

collective Title and Rights.  Syilx Okanagan Nation communities include thousands of members who are Sinixt descendants and whose ancestors historically lived in the Arrow Lakes area.

For more information please contact:

Chief Clarence Louie
Tribal Chair
Okanagan Nation Alliance
Tel:  250-498-9132

MEDIA RELEASE- SCC Decision Desautel


Calling All Anglers To Report Catching Northern Pike In The Lower Columbia River

March 26th, 2021

snɬuxwqnm (Castlegar), Syilx Territory: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is calling all anglers to support suppression efforts of Northern Pike.  We request that all anglers catching Northern Pike in the nx̌ʷntk’ʷitkʷ (Columbia River), including the Pend d’Oreille, Kootenay, Columbia and Kettle Rivers report these catches to Evan Smith, ONA biologist: esmith@syilx.org, who also has more details.

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries manager stated that “Northern Pike are known to have major impacts on aquatic ecosystems which includes current salmon returning to the Okanagan system and undoubtedly  future salmon restoration efforts in the Upper Columbia.  It’s important our programs continue to suppress and monitor.”

Signing up for this program will require information such as your catch including the date and location of capture, as well as length, weight, and photo of the catch that includes a date stamp and a locally recognized landmark. These reports greatly contribute to further Northern Pike suppression and monitoring efforts in the Columbia — as a large, adult female pike can produce upwards of a quarter million eggs in a year.  Anglers who partake and submit information will be put into a draw for $200, $100, or $50 Canadian Tire gift certificate at the end of the season in December 2021.

The ONA launched its Northern Pike suppression program in 2018 and continues to implement its program in suppression and monitoring of invasive Northern Pike in the Columbia. Our suppression efforts focus on pre-spawn adults in spring, and adult, juveniles and young-of-the-year. Capturing pre-spawn adults is an effective method of suppressing the population. In 2020 at least 144 pike were effectively removed from the Lower Columbia River and Pend d’Oreille River.

Funders of the Northern Pike Suppression Program include: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Columbian Basin Trust, Teck, Fortis, FWCP, and BC Hydro.

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Detected in 2010 in the Columbia River in Castlegar, Northern Pike are suspected of originating from Montana and migrating downstream through the Pend d’Oreille system. Established populations now exist in the Robson Reach and the Kootenay River confluence areas, as well as downstream throughout Lake Roosevelt. They have been documented moving further downstream in the Columbia each year. For more information on the ONA’s Northern Pike Suppression program please visit: www.syilx.org/projects/lower-columbia-river-pike-suppression/

For More Information Contact:
Michael Zimmer, ONA Biologist
T 250 304 7341       E mzimmer@syilx.org

Pike Program Media Release


kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery Update

January 29th, 2021

Our sc’win (sockeye) alevins are almost all completely hatched. Once they hatch we add plastic rings bio-media (or synthetic media) to their incubation boxes, which mimics silt in the rivers. The newly hatched alevins (yolk sac fry) will burrow themselves into the silt for protection until they have utilized their yolk and can start feeding freely.

The alevin hide in the rings and can then utilize all their yolk for development. If we didn’t add the rings, they would constantly be swimming and they would use too much energy and therefore would not continue to develop properly. Once, the alevin have used almost all of their yolk sacs, they are ready to begin feeding.

To move them out to the rearing area, we utilize a unique “ponding” method. This method is called volitional release, and basically the fry swim out to their respective raceways for feeding all by themselves!!! No handling which reduces a lot of stress and mortality. Once they are in their raceway, we start the feeding process. We feed them all by hand, and around 8-10 times per day.


Okanagan Nation’s ‘Fish in Schools’ Program Educates Participants on Importance of Salmon in the Okanagan

January 18th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: Over the last week the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), as part of the Fish in Schools (FinS) program, delivered the final round of sc’win (sockeye salmon) eggs or fry to participating schools on Syilx territory.

In 2021 six schools from school district 53 (Oliver/Osoyoos/Cawston) will participate in the program. Each of the schools received 100 “eyed” sc’win sockeye eggs for their in-class incubators. Participating schools include: Osoyoos Elementary, Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary, Osoyoos Secondary, Southern Okanagan Secondary, Cawston Primary, and Oliver Elementary.  ­­­­

The Okanagan Correctional Centre also received FinS eggs for the second consecutive year. This year the staff and inmates involved with the FinS program purchased two more additional “in-class” incubators, bring the number of aquarium incubators in the prison to — two for Sockeye, and one for Chinook.

ONA’s FinS program illustrates the ONA’s commitment and leadership in salmon restoration throughout the territory. It is a comprehensive fish education program for school students, with a focus on sc’win (sockeye salmon), their lifecycle and the importance o­­­­­f their ecosystems. By creating greater awareness of fish species, the intent is for students to become educated and aware of both salmon, their habitat and surrounding ecosystem.

The eggs are raised by participants until they are fry in the early spring. Upon successfully raising the sc’win fry they will be included in the Syilx Okanagan ceremonial releases throughout the Syilx Territory.

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The Fish in Schools program has been running successfully since 2003 in the Okanagan region, and contributes to the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery’s fry release efforts. The kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery is a testament to the perseverance of the Syilx people to realize their dream of restoring the n’titx(Salmon) – one of our Four Food Chiefs – to their original habitat and rightful place in our territory. Opened in 2014, the 25,000 square foot hatchery has the capacity to rear 8 million eggs. It is currently equipped to handle all fish culture aspects required for 5 million eggs from brood stock management until fry release.

For More Information Contact:
Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager
Tel: (250) 718-5215

MEDIA RELEASE – Okanagan FinS 2021


Okanagan Nation Raises Awareness of Salmon Restoration in the Columbia with the ‘Fish in Schools’ Program

January 13th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:

Five groups, including four schools, in the Columbia region received salmon eggs, from the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery, last week as part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance Fish in Schools (FinS) Program. FinS is a comprehensive fish education program for youth, with a focus on salmon, their lifecycle and the importance of their ecosystems. By creating greater awareness of fish species, the intent is for students to become future advocates for both salmon and their habitat. The program has been significantly scaled down compared to last year, in which we had 16 programs in the Columbia, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A significant milestone for the FinS program in the Columbia this year is that we have provided chinook salmon eggs to the two original pilot schools (Twin Rivers Elementary, Castlegar, and Glenmerry Elementary, Trail).

“Chinook are significant in that they represent n’titxw – Chief Salmon – one of the four Syilx Food Chiefs. The presence of chinook in the Upper Columbia after an absence of 80 years is a remarkable cultural and ecological achievement,” Chief Keith Crow, Lower Similkameen Indian Band, states.

Chinook populations in the Okanagan River are currently at the forefront of additional restoration efforts underway by the ONA, and provided this opportunity to access Chinook eggs through the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery.

In the Columbia Region, 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 major tributaries the Salmo River and Slocan River. This program is another illustration of the ONA’s commitment to leading salmon restoration throughout all parts of Syilx territory.

The ONA upholds their responsibility to the tmixw (all living things), our Syilx Okanagan traditional ecological knowledge systems and actively involve our knowledge keepers that inform our interactions on the land – balanced with the incorporation of western science. Through the integration of these two systems, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) has been persistent in ensuring that we are restoring and rejuvenating the habitats and ecosystems of the Upper Columbia and Okanagan Basin in the most dynamic way possible. We engage both traditional knowledge and cutting-edge science to contribute to protecting and advancing a biodiverse environment. FinS is a key step in the Syilx Nation’s broader intent to raise awareness and bring salmon back to their original range, having been blocked from returning by dams along the Columbia River in the 1940s.

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The Fish in Schools program has run successfully since 2003 in the Okanagan region, and contributes to the kł cpə̓ lk) stim̓ Hatchery’s fry release efforts. The kł cpə̓ lk, stim̓ Hatchery is a testament to the perseverance of the Syilx people to realize their dream of restoring the n’titxw (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

MEDIA RELEASE – Columbia FinS 2021


The Syilx Okanagan Nation Congratulates Ardith Walpetko We’dalx Walkem, Q.C. on Appointment to the British Columbia Supreme Court

December 21st, 2020

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory – December 21, 2020:  The Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation offer their congratulations to Ardith Walpetko We’dalx Walkem, Q.C. on her appointment as a justice to the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Syilx Okanagan Nation Tribal Chair, Chief Clarence Louie provided the following comment, “On behalf of the Syilx Okanagan Nation, I am pleased to offer my congratulations to Ardith Walpetko We’dalx Walkem on her appointment to the BC Supreme Court. Justice Walkem is the first First Nations woman to be appointed to this bench,” He further stated that, “Justice Walkem is deeply respected amongst First Nations leadership, including the Syilx Okanagan Nation, for her advocacy and pursuit of justice for First Nations people. We wish her the very best in her many years to come as a Supreme Court Justice.”

Justice Walkem, Q.C. grew up in Spences Bridge, B.C., and is a member of the Nlaka’pamux Nation. After completing a B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies at McGill, she attended law school at the University of British Columbia. She also earned a Master of Laws degree from UBC with a research focus on Indigenous laws.

Madam Justice Walkem articled at Mandell Pinder and McDonald and Associates. Practising with Cedar and Sage Law, she has worked extensively with Indigenous communities and organizations to support them in asserting their Aboriginal Title Rights and Treaty Rights. She is a mediator who also works within Indigenous dispute-resolution mechanisms. Her work has focused on the rights of children. She authored “Wrapping Our Ways Around Them: Indigenous Communities Child Welfare” (for the ShchEma-mee.tkt project) to support Indigenous communities in implementing their own child welfare laws or to work within existing child welfare regimes and to educate the legal community on how to work effectively with Indigenous peoples.

For further information, please contact:

Chief Clarence Louie, Tribal Chair

T: 250-498-9132

BC Supreme Court Appointment of Ardith Walkem