Special Message from Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip – AGA Follow-Up Nation Recognition Message

July 23rd, 2019

Way’ Chiefs, Councillors and Membership,

Following the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Annual General Assembly of July 17-18, 2019, it is
important to emphasize that the proposed Recognition Agreement process is one of de-colonization
where we as members of the Syilx Nation finally hold the power to decide how we are to govern our
collectively-held territorial lands and future.

Our Title and Rights are held collectively at the Nation level, not at the community Band level. It is
at the Nation level that we must work together to fully realize our Title and Rights.

• This Agreement is in no way a surrender of title, lands, jurisdiction or power.
• It does not give away anything or affect any of our rights.
• It does not change Indian Act reserve structure, local governance or status in any way.
• This is about rebuilding our power as Syilx People at the Syilx Nation level.
• This is not a treaty or a land claim. It does not set up any municipal level government or
corporation structure.
• This ensures the government does not ever deny our Title or Rights, including in court.
• This is an unprecedented Agreement and opportunity to ensure our power – Nation to Nation.
• It creates opportunities to rebuild our Syilx laws and responsibilities and our own Syilx
governance processes.
• This allows us to rebuild our own Syilx Nation governance and move beyond the ONA Society
Act process.

The Chiefs Executive Council has committed to Nation-wide community discussions specifically on
this Recognition Agreement. Syilx Nation members will be notified of Recognition discussion
forum schedules as soon as they can be confirmed. This will be in addition to the community-led
Syilx Nation Rising rebuilding engagement already underway.

Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip

Special Message from GCSP – AGA Follow-up Nation Recognition Message

ONA Proud to Share 2018-2019 Annual Report

July 18th, 2019

The Okanagan Nation Alliance is proud to release the digital publication of our 2018-2019 Annual Report. The Annual Report is developed every year to support the ONA Annual General Assembly, and illustrates the breadth and depth of the work that takes place throughout the organization over the past fiscal year. It also represents our continued commitment to transparency and accountability in all the work that we carry out.

Since inauguration, the Okanagan Nation Alliance has remained dedicated to developing governance structures and operations, which uphold the Okanagan Nation Declaration and the rebuilding of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. Over the decades ONA has worked diligently to uphold our mandate to work collectively to advance and assert Syilx Okanagan Nation Title and Rights over the Territory. Today, not only has the range of work become greatly diversified, but we continue to face the opportunities and challenges of exponential growth. This Annual Report acts as an opportunity to reflect upon both where we are coming from, as well as where we are headed.

We hope you enjoy!

ONA 2018-2019 Annual Report


Syilx Okanagan Nation Gather and Celebrate at Annual General Assembly

July 17th, 2019

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Okanagan Territory: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is proud to announce that our Annual General Assembly (AGA) will take place from July 17-18, 2019. This event provides Syilx Okanagan people with the opportunity to gather as a Nation, 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. This year the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) is hosting the event at the Prestige Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre, in Vernon, BC.

The keynote speaker for this year’s AGA is Bernie Williams Poitras, a community leader and long-time advocate for Indigenous women, who recently contributed to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The issue of Murdered & Missing Women and Girls, alongside the generational impacts of the Indian Residential Schools, systemic racism and violence, continue to have profound effects on Syilx communities, and Ms. Williams Poitras will be speaking to some of key processes that have been highlighted for addressing these issues through the National Inquiry.

Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip states that: “This is a trying time for Canada. The Prime Minister’s lofty promises of transparency, integrity, gender equity, Indigenous reconciliation, and enhanced environmental protection have all been shown to have very shallow roots. Words are one thing, but deeds are quite another. At this year’s AGA we continue to come together, as our ancestors have always done, to find the ways and means of taking on the challenges that colonialism has created, and finding solutions that resonate within our contemporary context.”

Alongside a variety of pertinent presentations and dialogues, there will also be a host of cultural activities taking place, including Canoe Races, Traditional Games, and nsyilxcən Bingo hosted throughout the two days.

Aligned with AGA, the annual Youth Leadership and Elders Gathering will also take place. This event provides Syilx youth the opportunity to connect with other peers from across the territory, engage in on-the-land based activities, and cultivate leadership skills. This event further supports the Syilx Okanagan Nation’s dedication to cultivate strong youth leaders today by their interaction with elders and other leaders throughout the Nation so that we may continue to thrive in the future.

For more info and a full agenda of the event visit: www.syilx.org/events/annual-general-assembly/


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:
Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, ONA Chair
T: 1-250-490-5314

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead
T: 1-250-862-6866 E: tmontgomery@syilx.org


Community Bulletin: Okanagan Nation 2019 sc’win (sockeye salmon) Return

July 11th, 2019

As of July 9, 2019, about 57,875 Sockeye have entered the Columbia River. It is estimated that
75-85% will return to the Okanagan. In total, we are anticipating there will be 60,000 sockeye
returning to the Columbia, with 45,000 to 51,000 sockeye heading to the Okanagan. These low returns are a result of poor migration conditions that affected the 2015 run. Since these
estimates are below 80,000, neither an economic nor recreational fishery will be considered.

Currently Syilx Okanagan Nation members are actively food fishing at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (swuhwuneet-kw) and nʕaylintn (ny-lin-tn) since the beginning of July and river temperatures have not increased where the sockeye have not fallen back into Osoyoos Lake. To support the food fishery the ONA does have two 16ft Lund boats with fishing gear available for community members to sign out. Individuals will require a truck to tow boat and boaters license and will need to return in working condition with same gear/equipment as it left with. We also have ice available at the hatchery in Penticton.

If food fishing, please have status card available as DFO enforcement will be out periodically making sure it is only the ONA Members fishing right now. Due to the low returns, for the time being, the ONA does not anticipate any communal distribution.

The ONA is dedicated to food sovereignty throughout the Nation. We sustain efforts at
diversifying our food fishery, incorporating a wide range of traditional species including bull
trout, sturgeon, and rainbow trout. In addition, we are committed to fostering education and
awareness about the need for protection and rejuvenation of all aquatic life and their habitats.
This includes Nation events, public signage initiatives, education programs like Fish in Schools (FinS), and outreach initiatives like the 2019 Okanagan Nation Fisheries Forum, which focused on the current and expanding operations of our fishery and stewardship responsibilities.

*ONA’s data sets are collected with the support of ONA’s CEC, CCT, PUDs, BPA and DFO, since 1995 using juvenile and adult biological traits such as abundance, age structure and survival estimates. It is one of the top ten richest data sets in the Columbia & BC for sockeye management.

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager
T: 1-250-718-5215
E: HWright@syilx.org

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

Community Bulletin – Okanagan Nation 2019 sc’win (sockeye salmon) Return


June 24th, 2019

sɬuxʷqaynm (Castlegar), Syilx Territory: On June 24, 2019, as part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) ongoing effort to bring salmon back to the Upper Columbia, a sockeye fry release and cpu taʔstm iʔ xaʔxʔitət uɬ ck ́aʕxtm iʔ ntytyix Salmon Ceremony took place at Millennium Park in sɬuxʷqaynm, BC. These actions are central to Syilx Peoples responsibility to honor our ancestors and pray for the salmon, siwlɬkʷ (water) and tmixʷ (land).

“The Syilx Nation adheres to our responsibilities to all parts of our territory, including that of the Upper Columbia. In the face of many challenges the Syilx Okanagan Nation remains committed to ensuring that not only is our voice heard, but that our presence is felt. We, as Syilx People, have an inherent responsibility to call salmon back to the Upper Columbia. Ceremonies such as this affirm our connection to our territory” stated Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, ONA Chair.

The sockeye fry release saw over 500 students from 10 schools throughout the Columbia releasing approximately 1200 sockeye fry that they have raised as part of ONA’s Fish in Schools (FinS) program.
By creating greater awareness of aquatic species students will become more educated of both salmon, their habitat and surrounding ecosystem. In the Columbia, this program also creates awareness of the historic salmon run from the ocean, upstream to the Kettle River, Columbia, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenay Rivers, including major tributaries the Salmo River and Slocan River.

calyx (Richard Armstrong), Syilx elder furthered that “Our Salmon Ceremonies are important because they tell the salmon ‘Come up! The Eagles need to eat. The Bears have to eat. The land can be fed, because not only the people depend on the salmon, but the land depends on it. The Eagles take the fish to the shore and the Bears carry it further up the mountain and they fertilize the huckleberries and everything else up the mountain. And as long as we perform these ceremonies the salmon knows that we Syilx are still here and we are still carrying out our responsibilities to call them home”.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) continue to be dedicated and vigilant to ensuring the successful reintroduction of sockeye salmon to the Upper Columbia watershed.
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:
Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip
T: 250-490-5314

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

MEDIA RELEASE-Castlegar Fry Release and Salmon Ceremony

Reclaiming Power And Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

June 5th, 2019

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:  The Syilx Okanagan Nation Chiefs Executive Council welcomes Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, released June 3, 2019 by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for significant, systemic, transformative change.   This official report recognizes the systematic race- and gender-based violence against Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people in Canada as a genocide that needs to be addressed and acted upon immediately. The 231 Calls for Justice provided significant recommendations for action, including specific calls on human rights, policing, the justice system, corrections, health care, education, media, social work and child welfare.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) applauds the release of this long-overdue report, adding another step on the path towards reparation and healing from the ongoing traumas of colonialism.  The ONA CEC has been monitoring and actively engaged in the process of its development, having provided a submission on behalf of the Nation, as well as assisting and supporting specific Syilx families with their own statements and healing.

Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, CEC Chair, states, “The time to act is now.  The genocidal acts have been clear. This issue persists, with Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit peoples who continue to be missing or face rampant violence on a daily basis. Although the inquiry has completed its final report and Calls for Justice, there are many families within Syilx territory who have not told their stories, who have not received justice for their mothers/sisters/daughters, who feel unrepresented and unheard.  There are multiple levels of work that remain, the challenges reverberate throughout our communities, demanding healing and reparation to take place across multiple levels of systems, including family, community, Nation, and all levels of government.  Women are the backbone of our families and communities, it will take concerted action by all levels of government and the justice system to restore women to their proper place of power and dignified respect.”

The ONA has implemented a program called You Empowered Strong, now in its last year of funding by the Federal government, to begin addressing and de-normalizing gender based violence.  The work must continue.  We call on the Provincial and Federal Governments to ensure adequate funding to fully the support the implementation of the Calls for Justice.

To read the full Call for Justice visit:


For further information please contact:

Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, ONA Chair / T: 250-490-5314

Jennifer Lewis / T: 1-250-250-826-7844  E: wellness.manager@syilx.org

MEDIA RELEASE – MMIWG Call for Justice

Syilx Nation’s Unity Run Continues to Raise Awareness About Suicide and Violence Prevention

May 8th, 2019

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: From May 9-12, 2019, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) will host the 11th annual Spirit of Syilx Youth Unity Run. This event brings over 100 Syilx youth from across the Nation together to run through 350 kilometers of Syilx territory.

The Okanagan Nation is currently facing an opioid overdose crisis, alongside disproportionate levels of violence and suicide. In the face of these urgent and serious issues the Okanagan Nation’s Chief Executive Council (CEC) are developing and implementing well-being strategies that are based in all aspects of Syilx culture. The Unity Run is one of these impactful approaches, used to raise awareness and education with all youth members, citizens and the public on issues of suicide and violence that continues to confront Syilx communities.

Beyond these foundational goals, the Unity Run provides an innovative and holistic means of promoting wellness to Syilx youth. By engaging a wide range of tools – from physical activity, recognition of connection to land, and implementation of the Syilx teachings, culture and language – the Run provides participants with a deep sense of well-being. It educates on healthy lifestyle alongside facilitating the experience of community, connection and belonging. Syilx youth are also provided connection to their territory together as a Nation, while building relationships with Syilx elders, thus enacting our inherent responsibility to each other, the land and for generations to come.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, ONA Chairman, states, “The Spirit of Syilx Youth Unity Run affirms the Okanagan Nation’s dedication to coming together and holding up our youth. In line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 22 we must all ensure that our children are provided with full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence. This Run not only raises awareness on these issues of violence, but instills wellness and pride in our culture and nsyilxcen language for generations to come. The youth that take part in the Unity Run are tomorrow’s leaders. It fills me with pride to witness this young people rising up, building and fostering strength in each other and our Nation”.

This year the Unity Run begins on May 9 at Polson Park in Vernon, heads across to Douglas Lake, down through Kingsvale and finishes on May 12 in Manning Park, BC. A wide range of participants take part in the Unity Run every year, including Syilx youth, elders, leaders, Nation members and a range of other participants that wish to contribute and support to the event.

For further information please contact:

Jennifer Lewis
T: 1-250-250-826-7844 E: wellness.manager@syilx.org

MEDIA RELEASE- Unity Run 2019 pdf

B.C. Court of Appeal Confirms Rights in Arrow Lakes

May 3rd, 2019

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Okanagan Territory: The Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation welcome
the May 2, 2019 decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in R. v. Desautel, recognizing
and protecting Sinixt Aboriginal hunting rights in B.C. Sinixt are inextricably linked to our broader
Syilx Okanagan Nation, sharing common language, culture, history, traditions and ancestry. As
our Syilx communities include many Sinixt people, this confirmation that Sinixt rights continue to
exist in Syilx Okanagan Territory is critically important, particularly in light of the Province of
British Columbia’s previous denial of those rights.

The case was an appeal of the BC Supreme Court’s affirmation of the BC Provincial Court’s
March 27, 2017 decision that found that Richard DeSautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe of the
Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) and a United States citizen, has an Aboriginal right to hunt
in the traditional territory of Sinixt people in British Columbia.

The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the Province’s appeal and confirmed some key legal
• The Aboriginal perspective needs to be taken into account when assessing whether persons who are not resident or citizens of Canada can be “Aboriginal peoples of Canada”;

• There is no requirement for there to be a modern-day community in the area where harvesting activities take place for an Aboriginal right to exist – this finding reflects the fact that Indigenous peoples were displaced through the process of colonization and that rights in the Arrow Lakes area were never voluntarily surrendered or abandoned.

In commenting on the decision, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the Chiefs’ Executive
Council of the Syilx Okanagan Nation stated that: “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has
confirmed what we have always known – that the Sinixt (in our language, the sʔalt̕ik̓ʷt) were the
original inhabitants of the Arrow Lakes region long before the Europeans arrived. We are not

The Grand Chief went on to note: “As colonization advanced and especially with the imposition
of a boundary between the US and Canada, our Sinixt people were forced to choose which side
of the border to live in. Yet we are all related and we remain related to the present day. The
ONA and CCT will continue to be united through our cultural, familial, territorial, economic and
political ties. Neither the Court’s decision nor an imaginary line at the 49th parallel can affect the
relationships of our Sinixt people and the Title and Rights that belong to us, the nsyilxcen speaking
peoples. We were pleased to participate in the appeal on behalf of Syilx Okanagan
people and our Nation. We also hold up our two elders, Richard Armstrong and Hazel Squakin,
who were able to share their knowledge of the Arrow Lakes area of our Territory 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 Syilx Okanagan Nation
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:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Okanagan Nation Alliance Chair
Tel: (250) 490-5314

Press Release BCCA Decision in Desautel

Restoring cəm’tus (white sturgeon) for a multispecies fishery

May 2nd, 2019

On May 3, 2019, at 10 am, the Syilx Okanagan Nation will host a cəm’tus (White Sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus) juvenile release ceremony at Millenium Park in Castlegar, BC. Approximately 100 cəm’tus fry will be into the upper reaches of the Columbia River on May 3, 25 of which will be released during the ceremony.

Historically, Syilx Okanagan peoples harvested cəm’tus within their Territory as was central to their traditional customs and practices. In 2006, cəm’tus was listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in the Upper Columbia River, as the population was failing to reproduce due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

As part of a continued effort to support the Chiefs Executive mandate is respectfully aligned with our Syilx Traditional knowledge, culture, food security, and customs. The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is commitment to creating a multispecies fishery for all Syilx people, which includes the rejuvenation of cəm’tus. Initial planning has begun to hold a communal fishery for cəm’tus in the autumn of 2019. These efforts demonstrate our responsibilities to restore cəm’tus to the Upper Columbia River and eventually revive the historical fishery. The ONA’s fishery program, with the utilization of kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery, aim to extend the license in the coming two years and raise cəm’tus juveniles for release from our own hatchery.

This is a partnership event, in collaboration with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and BC Hydro.

For more information on other work the Okanagan Nation is conducting with cəm’tus in the Upper Columbia: www.syilx.org/projects/juvenile-white-sturgeon-monitoring/

For more information on this event please contact:

Dominique Alexis: Events Planner T: (250) 707-0095 ext. 233 E: dalexis@syilx.org

4.2 Million sc’win (Sockeye) Fry to be Released into Okanagan Watershed

April 30th, 2019

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx/Okanagan Nation’s Chiefs Executive Council affirm a shared responsibility to care for Syilx lands and resources, including responsibility to our sacred waters and the foods that they provide. This year marks another huge milestone with 4.2 million sockeye fry being released into the Okanagan Watershed, primarily into Okanagan Lake. This work includes a series of Syilx ceremonial releases taking place from April 30 – May 2, 2019.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip shares that “These fry releases, and other continued efforts at returning sc’win (Okanagan sockeye) to our territory, are part of our inherent right and responsibility as Syilx People. We are dedicated to ensuring that our grandchildren and all future generations are able to fish, and practice our way of life to uphold these sacred relations”.

Over the course of April and May, 2019, the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery operations will release these sockeye salmon fry into various points within the watershed including 6 Mile Creek, Mission Creek, Trout Creek, and Shingle Creek. These fry releases are integral to the Syilx peoples’ continued successful efforts to return sockeye salmon back to the Okanagan, and since 2016, specifically to Okanagan Lake.

The Syilx Chiefs and leadership are steadfast in their commitment to working collaboratively with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and recently with the Province of BC, to finalize long-term plans on sockeye salmon reintroduction in Okanagan Lake. Chief Chad Eneas states “The reintroduction of sockeye fry back to Okanagan Lake ensures the successful revitalization of these stocks and diversifies the stock with additional lake systems. Our ancestors knew these waterways and everything that depended upon them for survival. These were our food systems our food security and our responsibilities to care for as our ancient captikwl (stories) confirm this understanding. We remain committed to these responsibilities for our lands, waters and peoples”.

Howie Wright, ONA’s Fisheries Program Manager, affirms “The Syilx/Okanagan Nation’s reintroduction of sockeye into Skaha Lake is highly successful, which enables us to upscale these efforts to Okanagan Lake. As these stocks continue to be re-established Syilx Okanagan Nation member communities are able to meet food, social, and ceremonial needs through the food fishery”.
This initiative is critical given that sc’win were nearly extirpated in the Okanagan Basin. In the 1960’s the Columbia River Treaty and habitat impacts in the Okanagan basin led to the creation of industrial reservoirs, and the building hydro-electric developments on the Columbia River, making it impossible for fish passage, while severely impacting Syilx cultural, political and near extinction of our central food systems: our salmon. Syilx title and rights assertions and advocacy have seen the ONA working with provincial, federal and US Tribes and agencies counterparts to rebuild this sockeye population with respectful balance of Traditional knowledge and western science.
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’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 further information please contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chairman C: 250-490-5314

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Program Manager C:250-718-5215

There will be numerous ceremonial fry releases taking place throughout the Syilx territory from April 30-May 2, 2019. These include the following scheduled releases.

Mission Creek Fry Release
Date: April 30, 2019
Time: 1:00-3:00 pm
Hosted by: Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Westbank First Nation Location: Mission Creek
Details: This is a private event for the Westbank First Nation, and will not be open to the public.

6 Mile Creek Fry Release
Date: April 30, 2019
Time: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Hosted by: Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Okanagan Indian Band Location: 6 Mile Creek
Details: This event is open to the public.

Annual Sockeye Fry Release
Date: May 2, 2018
Time: 9:30am – 2:00pm
Hosted by: Okanagan Nation Alliance Location: Penticton Channel, off Hwy 97 & Green Mountain Road, Penticton BC Details: This event hosts over 400 students from local schools that have raised fry through the ONA’s (ONA) Fish in Schools Program, that will be released along with fry from the kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery. A number of activities for participating students will also take place. Please drive slowly. Parking will be available along the left side of the Dyke and behind the Save on Gas station.
For more information on any of these events please contact:

Dominique Alexis: Events Planner T: (250) 707-0095 ext. 233 E: dalexis@syilx.org

Okanagan Lake Fry Release Media Releases 2019