UPDATE: ONA RESPONSE TO COVID-19
tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Okanagan Territory: On March 18, 2020, as of today, ONA offices are only open for staff. Over the next few days, ONA staff will be transitioning to working from home as much as possible to mitigate risks and to ensure we do our part in keeping Nation members and partners safe. During this time, we remain committed to fulfilling our responsibilities to our Syilx Okanagan Nation families and communities. We will continue to be available by phone, email, or social media. The following staff may be contacted if you have any questions:
- Pauline Terbasket, Executive Director – 250-878-6242
- Jennifer Lewis, Wellness Manager – 250-826-7844
- Howie Wright, Fisheries Program Manager – 250-718-5215
- Cailyn Glasser, Natural Resources Operations Biologist – 250-469-1595
- Carol Roberts, Financial Administrator – 250-707-0095 ext. 207
- Charlotte Armstrong, Executive Assistant – 250-707-0095 ext. 208
- Tara Montgomery, Communications Lead – 250-862-6866
tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation stands in solidarity with the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en in their meetings with the federal and provincial governments on Wet’suwet’en Territory.
In the wake of provincial legislation applying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to BC laws and the federal government’s commitment to introduce similar federal legislation, the Wet’suwet’en crisis shines a national light on the on-going issue of Title and Rights recognition in British Columbia. This long-standing issue has remained largely unresolved despite the 1997 Delgamuukw decision where the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that Wet’suwet’en Title and Rights have never been extinguished.
The Syilx Okanagan Nation calls on the provincial and federal governments to work in good faith with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, charting a pathway forward that both respects Wet’suwet’en Title and Rights and full and meaningful implementation of UNDRIP. Aspirational words about reconciliation are not enough. What is required is full respect and recognition of Indigenous laws, governance, and title and rights, not only for the Wet’suwet’en, but for all Indigenous Nations.
Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, Chair for the Syilx Okanagan Nation has stated that, “Canada and BC must move beyond political mumbling and empty rhetoric and immediately take action to honor the invitation of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.to meet face-to-face. Furthermore the RCMP occupation force must immediately leave Wet’suwet’en Territory and Coastal Gas Link must agree to reroute the pipeline.” He further stated that, “It is time for Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier John Horgan to, ‘walk the walk‘”.
Grand Chief Dr. Stewart Phillip, ONA Chair
The Okanagan Nation Alliance is proud to announce our new book, qʷʕay snk̓lip Blue Coyote by Billie Kruger, which will be launched at the Okanagan Nation Wellness Gathering November 20, 2019. Billie is an 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 speaker of the nsyilxcәn language. 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.
The book is a contemporary Syilx captikwł about snk̓lip, a gorgeous being created by k̓ʷəlncutn to rid the world of nʔaɬnaʔsqilxʷtn in preparation for the sqilxw that would come. snk̓lip was made to be courageous, strong, and intelligent and was gifted with special powers to aid him in transforming the nʔaɬnaʔsqilxʷtn. snk̓lip was confident in his abilities to carry out this important job, sometimes a little too confident. Eventually, after battling countless nʔaɬnaʔsqilxʷtn so bravely, the burden of the enormous responsibility began to ware on snk̓lip. He became exhausted and his anxiety grew with each battle. snk̓lip fell into a deep depression and was filled with shame, hate and anger towards himself. Even the support of his friends and family could not help him, only snk̓lip could help himself. Through ceremony, connecting to the land, and sharing his story could snk̓lip begin to heal and reclaim his power.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance is committed to ensuring that our captikwł, our nsyilxcən language, and our Syilx teachings continue to shape our path forward. This book was created as a resource in hopes that it will create a greater awareness of mental health issues while providing an opportunity for greater mindfulness of the importance cultural identity and community play in the well-being of First Nations. A growing body of research shines a light on how such connections to community and land cannot only prevent, but also restore physical, mental and spiritual well-being of our people. These cultural practices of connecting to our land have always been an intrinsic part of Syilx life.
At the direction of the Chiefs Executive Council, a Recognition Agreement was negotiated with the federal government to protect and advance our Syilx Nation’s collective Title and Rights. This would require the federal government to make a significant funding commitment to support the Syilx Nation’s work to develop and implement our Syilx Nation governance. Even though the agreement was approved in principle by Cabinet, the federal government has informed our negotiators that it ran out of time to get the necessary Finance approvals needed for this agreement to be signed before the Fall 2019 election. Syilx Nation level and local community discussions on the Recognition Agreement that were scheduled for this August had to be postponed.
Pending the outcome of the federal election, it’s important to keep working together in our Nation to understand the precedent-setting importance of this Recognition agreement for our people today and for our future generations.
At the same time, our Syilx Nation rebuilding and decolonization work continues through the community-led Syilx Nation Rising process. We continue the work of our ancestors to rebuild a unified Syilx Nation government guided by ankc’x̌ʷiplaʔtntət uɬ yʕat iʔ ks səctxət̕stim – our laws and responsibilities which we will create and approve together as Syilx Nation members.
Syilx Nation Rising community engagement update
Brittany has completed her Bachelor of Dental Science at UBC Vancouver, and is setting her sights on the next academic endeavor. In September 2019 Brittany will begin a Master’s in Public Health program at The University of Victoria. She wishes to broaden her lens and work more with communities, helping those who may be missed by the system, or do not fit within the framework of the current system. Her long term goals include working to develop a health care system that meets the needs of all Canadians by working with Communities, health authorities, and partaking in research, and advocacy.
“Through my bachelor’s degree experience and my experience with the First Nations Health Authority at the International Indigenous Allied Health Conference, I came to realize the true scope of the health crisis amongst our indigenous populations. They are often unable to access care due to a lack of services in their region, or through unwillingness to access current service due to fear of discrimination and safety. I plan to use my professional designation as my platform by establishing an independent mobile hygienic clinic to work with rural and remote Indigenous communities, offering them oral hygiene services and support that are culturally safe. This will benefit both individuals, and communities but I want to create change on a larger scale still.”
Keianna is a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band, and current student at Thompson River University. She has chosen a path of passion exploring her interest in science. Upon completing her Bachelor of Science in Biology she is looking towards an additional two years of school in the field of Optometry. Keianna has a dream of starting an indigenized Optometry office on Osoyoos Indian Band land with the intention of making eye care more affordable, and comfortable for her community.
“To create and become a positive change in my community and for all indigenous peoples would be and has always been my absolute goal. Indigenous peoples have been growing into strong, beautiful communities, and changing for the better, and this great change needs to continue, so that we can make our ancestors, relatives, people, and family proud. I am honored to be an Okanagan Woman from Osoyoos Indian Band, and I plan on continuing my education to not only improve my life, but also the lives of my community, in the form of health care in optometry.”