Open Letter for a Public Inquiry into the Ministry of Children and Family Services following the Fraud and Thefts of Robert R. Saunders

October 3rd, 2022

We are writing this letter on behalf of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Chief’s Executive Council (CEC) in regards to Child Protection and Resource worker Robert Riley Saunders (Saunders). Saunders had spent over a decade stealing support services funding from mostly indigenous youth in foster care with the use of a falsified Social Work degree. This travesty and other tragic cases where young children and youth have lost their lives proves that there is a serious gap and complete lack of oversight of MCFD workers.

During Saunders time as a delegated social worker (SW), the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) work culture excluded Saunders from accountability and oversight. MCFD workers, Team Leads, and managers refused to listen to numerous complaints regarding Saunders’ conduct by his own clients, Indigenous Band workers and community members. This corrupt work culture became the breeding ground for Saunders to steal just under half a million dollars from youth who were on his caseload, defrauding them of their food, clothing, services and shelter allowances, leaving many of them destitute, homeless and struggling to survive.

On July 25th 2022, Saunders plead guilty to 3 out of 13 charges and received a punishment of five years for fraud, two years for breach of trust, which will be served concurrently, and one month for forgery. In July 2022, the Syilx Okanagan Nation Chiefs’ Executive signed Tribal Council Resolution (TRC) 491, supporting Council demands for a public inquiry into the corrupt practice, actions and the policies of MCFD during the period Saunders worked on behalf of the Director.

Since the inception of MCFD in 1996, MCFD has had constant and specific oversight from the Children’s Commissioner, the Child and Youth Advocate, the Child and Youth Officer and more recently after the Gove Report, the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY). Presently, the Ministry continues to face challenges as those described 27 years ago in the Gove Report and 16 years ago in the Hughes Report, yet the government continues to fail to put recommendations directed toward MCFD into practice to protect our most vulnerable population. The government’s failure to carry out thousands of recommendations over the lifetime of MCFD, is resulting in harms too numerous to mention, deaths and devastation.

Presently, there is another hole in the MCFD safety net. An internal MCFD management deficit and possible staff corruption permitted Saunders unbridled ability to defraud children and youth for over 10 years. There was a responsibility for the Director of MCFD to oversee Saunders actions as a BC Public Service employee, and as Director’s under the Child Family and Community Services Act, (CFCSA) but that did not occur. See Appendix A.

As stated in the Okanagan Nation’s axá  iʔ  sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxitət x̌l  iʔ  nqsil̓tət | Family Declaration, “it is our inherent right, that we are the ones to say what governs us, for what are the best interests, the good health, and the well-being of our children and people”. While these criminal acts occurred on our territory, we know this is not an isolated incident. Our Declaration is a reminder of our responsibility to care for those within our territory and a reminder to the Government of their responsibilities to act in good faith.

We are demanding a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fraud and theft that Saunders was able to commit, a comprehensive critical MCFD review and recommendations for change to ensure undetected internal MCFD fraud does not continue to harm children and youth. We want to ensure that any and all recommendations that result from this public inquiry and comprehensive critical provincial review are implemented with the resources required to ensure long-lasting and meaningful systemic changes to the child welfare system in BC, to increase safety, and to fulfill their obligations to reconciliation with First Nations and all Indigenous guests within the province.

Please contact ONA Executive Director, Pauline Terbasket via email at Director@syilx.org or by telephone at 250-707-0095 ext. 214 to arrange our next steps forward together.

Sincerely,

OKANAGAN NATION ALLIANCE

Appendix A

According to Court Documents, the Director:

The Director failed to adequately supervise, restrict, review and restrain Saunders. The Director failed to implement adequate systems, restraints and controls to detect and prevent Saunders’ misappropriation of funds and benefits. The Director failed to conduct reviews of Saunders’ files to detect whether Saunders was carrying out his duties appropriately and in accordance with the best interests of children, youth and families under his care. The Director delegated parental control to Saunders.

Saunders’ team lead did not hold the weekly and monthly consultation with Saunders as required by policy and/or failed to ascertain whether the children assigned to Saunders received appropriate care and failed to ascertain their level of well-being. As well, a manager did not properly supervise Saunders’ team lead, the Executive Director (ED) did not properly supervise the manager, and the supervisors in Victoria did not properly supervise the ED.

The Director was aware of previous instances of Saunders’ misconduct but failed to implement adequate supervision and controls that would have detected Saunders’ misconduct in a timely fashion. The Director’s failure to detect, supervise, restrict, review and restrain Saunders has resulted in harm to the many Indigenous youth and their families.

The Director failed to move expeditiously to review and restrain Saunders and failed to advise the Plaintiff in a timely fashion or notify the class members once Fraud was detected.

Open Letter

 


Syilx Okanagan Nation Demand Justice on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

September 29th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: On September 30, 2022, starting at 10 am, the Syilx Okanagan Nation will host a 5 kilometer “Walk for the Children”. This takes place on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, the walk will go from the Penticton Peach at Okanagan Lake and move to the Syilx Indian Residential School Nation’s monument on En’owkin Trail. This event is open to anyone who wants to participate. As part of an ongoing commitment to cultivate support for the Syilx victims of Indian Residential Schools this walk is meant to raise awareness throughout the general public about the ongoing trauma and devastation that Syilx people face as a result of Indian Residential Schools, while demonstrating our collective support for victims and their families.

Actions like these take place while the Government of Canada has again gone back on their commitment for either truth and reconciliation, this time “forever discharging” the Catholic church from having to raise the $25 million that they had initially promised to Indian Residential School survivors across Canada. Such disturbing acts highlight the hollow promises and empty commitments of the federal government when it comes to honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

“The Province of BC and Government of Canada continue to use the term “Truth and Reconciliation” as a means for political gain, because it makes them look good. On the ground, we continue to fight and are challenged every day with their colonial bureaucracy and legislation that have profound impacts on our daily lives. All Canadians must hold their government to task and ensure that paths toward both truth and reconciliation take place in a meaningful and lasting manner. This goes far beyond wearing an orange shirt for a day, but requires consistent direct action. It includes everything from accessible health and wellness services to providing long-term, secure funding to support language and culture revitalization in ways that are clear of bureaucratic tape and provided directly to the people that deserve these services,” y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Greg Gabriel stated.

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.

~

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/

For more information please contact:

y̓il̓mixʷm sil-teekin, Chief Greg Gabriel, Penticton Indian Band, Syilx Child & Family Governance Representative
T: 250-490-7250

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

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

Media Release


Syilx Okanagan Nation’s Salmon Feast Celebrates the Sacredness of the River at Traditional Fishing Camp sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitk

September 16th, 2022

sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ, Syilx Okanagan Territory: From September 16-18, 2022, Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers, youth and community members from across the Syilx Okanagan Nation will gather at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Okanagan Falls), a culturally significant site that was formally a part of the Osoyoos Indian Reserve, to take part in the annual Salmon Feast. This year’s gathering is particularly significant due to the historic runs of sc’win that are taking place this year on Syilx territory, and the opportunities to express the gratitude for the salmons return.

One of the Nation’s goals is to further the responsibilities and teachings to be keepers of our waters, territory, lands, foods, and resources. This knowledge has been passed on by our ancestors and Elders, who have always taught the importance of preserving and revitalizing the traditions, customs, and language of the Syilx people. Central to the Salmon Feast is honouring the sacredness of the river at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Okanagan Falls), an important traditional fishing camp, gathering place and trading site. The Salmon Feast involves multiple events and activities including, educational activities, a stick game tournament, local artisans showcasing their work, a canoe paddle where nation members are able to also pray on the water, and on Sunday a salmon feast and ceremony for snx̌aʔiwləm  (to honour the sacredness of the river).

“The historic return of salmon to Syilx territory that took place this year demonstrates how significant and important Syilx cultural gatherings like the Salmon Feast are for our people. By enacting our inherent responsibilities to the water and the timxw, we are ensuring that salmon will continue to return to feed our peoples and lands for generations to come. These salmon returns are not only an integral part of our culture but are also central to our food sovereignty and the capacity of our communities to be able to provide for themselves, “stated Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair.

It is vitally important that we honour the salmon so they will always come back to feed the people.

~

The Salmon Feast is a traditional annual gathering that connects to the ongoing organized efforts of the Okanagan Nation Alliance to raise awareness around the importance of the habitat protection and rehabilitation of local ecosystems, watersheds, alongside promoting a renewed connection and relationship between all residents of the Region with water and fish.

 

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

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications
T: 1.250.707.0095 ext. 120
C: 250.862.6866
E: tmontgomery@syilx.org

Media Release


Okanagan Nation Alliance Aim to Destigmatize the Drug Overdose Epidemic with the Purple Ribbon Campaign

August 29th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: From August 29-30, 2022, the Syilx Okanagan Nation will host the ‘Purple Ribbon Campaign Caravan” as part of our efforts to support Nation members and families facing addiction issues and promote International Overdose Awareness Day. In particular, it is a response to the urgent need to address the stigma that surrounds drug use. We must address the stigma that surrounds drug use and overdose, while simultaneously increasing culturally appropriate supports and services to decrease the violence and disruption that our communities face.

The Caravan will travel throughout Syilx Nation communities, bringing hundreds of people together, and will focus on sharing resources, promoting discussion, and offering information related to the drug and opioid crisis. Through raising awareness, the campaign supports good health and well-being and fostering positive social change.

“As Syilx People we continue to face an overdose emergency, with First Nations people five times more likely to experience an overdose throughout the Province of BC — despite being 2.6% of the population, Indigenous people make up 10% of overdose cases. These inequalities have their roots in intergenerational trauma which continue to resound throughout Indigenous communities to this day. This action, such as the Purple Ribbon Caravan provide the opportunity for us to unite as a people and move forward together” stated Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manger.

Alan Louis. ONA Syilx Okanagan Nation representatives stated that “The drug and opioid crisis continues to underscore the facts that social determinants of health are all linked to extreme poverty, economic disparity, poor health conditions, lack of accessible housing and are rooted in a history of colonization that resulted in the displacement of Indigenous peoples. These complex issues require holistic comprehensive response’s” adding, “we must also invest in culturally safe harm-reduction, treatment and recovery services that address the pernicious effects of discrimination and racism.”

The importance of this year’s Caravan is heightened due to the deepening impacts of a multitude of crises that continue to challenge the mental health and overall well-being of all Indigeneous people. From the COVID-19 pandemic, the findings of the 215+ at Kamloops Indian Residential School, and the devastation and disturbances created by natural disasters like wildfires and floods, our communities and members are dealing with unprecedented disruptions and trauma.

“It continues to deeply alarm me how the overdose crisis impacts our families and communities. We must come together even more to break down the stigma, reduce the fear, and shame that keep people silent, but more so as society at large seek solutions and reduce harm within our communities,” Allan Louis, Syilx Health Representative, affirms.

It is important for anyone facing these issues to know that you are not alone, and that there are resources and supports available to see you through challenging times. For more resources visit: www.syilx.org/wellness/our-programs-and-services/purple-ribbon-campaign/

~
ONA joins and recognizes Purple Ribbon Day – and all the efforts globally – that provide a deeper recognition to the issue of drug addiction and overdoses, alongside all of the victims of the current opioid emergency. Efforts like the Purple Ribbon Campaign Caravan are part of a broader range of programs and activities, including the Nation Drug Forum, that the Nation takes on to actively address the current opioid crisis that is devastating communities throughout the territory.

For further information please contact:
Jennifer Lewis, ONA Wellness Manager
T: 1-250-826-7844
E: wellness.manager@syilx.org

Alan Louis
ONA CEC Syilx Nation Health Representative
T: 1-250-308-6789

Media Release


Okanagan Nation Alliance’s Co-Publication Wins 2021 Mercer Patriarche Best Paper in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management

August 24th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Okanagan Nation Alliance is honoured to announce that their co-authored publication “Age-Structured Interactions among Reintroduced Sockeye Salmon, Resident Kokanee, Invasive Mysids, and their Zooplankton Prey in Skaha Lake, British Columbia” was selected by the American Fisheries Society as the best publication for 2021 in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management. The primary authors are the late Dr. Kim Hyatt, former Head of Salmon in Regional Ecosystems Program, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Dr. Don McQueen, Professor Emeritus of Limnology at York University. Additional authors include Ryan Benson, M.Sc. ONA Fisheries Biologist and Howie Wright, M. as well as Dr. Athena Ogden (DFO). It is important to mention that the late Dr. Hyatt was a Sockeye expert, an advocate and important ally in ONA’s efforts to restore salmon stocks and habitat on Syilx Territory.

Receiving this Award would not happen without the dedication and collaboration numerous partners forging strong working relationships in revealing the substantive, quantitative evidence on how the release of sockeye fry do not have substantial impacts on resident kokanee populations, as was once proposed. It is also the result of years of dedication by multiple people and organizations on the ground that have worked to ensure that sockeye salmon return to the Okanagan.

In addition, as stated in this study, it is also “one of a growing number of cases in which First Nations have assumed responsibility for the resources in their traditional territories and in which cultural and spiritual beliefs have informed resource stewardship,” and provides recognition for the importance of First Nations fisheries management.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance continues to be a leader in the field of fisheries management and salmon restoration, with the largest First Nations conservation hatchery on the continent. The Syilx Nation remains committed to ensuring the salmon are restored throughout all parts of the Syilx Okanagan territory.

The American Fisheries Society provides the award and is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to strengthening the fisheries profession, advancing fisheries science, and conserving fisheries resources. For more info on the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, where this award will be given out on August 22 2022, please visit: https://afsannualmeeting.fisheries.org/

To read the full publication please visit:

https://afspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/nafm.10635

Announcement


Okanagan Nation Insist that the Province Halt Cutting Permits of Old Growth Forests on Syilx Territory

August 23rd, 2022

snkxy̌ kntn (Revelstoke), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation insist that the Province of BC protect old growth forest throughout our territory, including the area around snkxy̌ kntn. Despite the commitments made by BC to defer the development of Old Growth forests, they continue to approve cutting permits in critical caribou habitat and some of the last intact inland temperate rainforest in the Province. Despite having clear recommendations from an expert advisory panel, held up by BC as key to the success of their own Old Growth Strategic Review process, BC is continuing to approve development of Old Growth in the snkxy̌ kntn (Revelstoke) area on the basis that First Nations have not come to consensus on the old growth deferral areas.

The Province’s continued failure to protect these forests, particularly through the ongoing authorization of the harvesting of old growth forests, is disturbing and has already led to the extirpation (regional extinction) of key species, like southern mountain caribou. The Province’s justification for old growth deforestation is based on false assumptions regarding a lack of consensus by First Nations on the need to protect these forests and endangered ecosystems.

To clarify, the Syilx Okanagan Nation does not, in any way, oppose the protection and conservation of these ecosystems for the generations to come. What we opposed is the lack of meaningful engagement with the Syilx Okanagan Nation to determine how the protection of these forests should take place in our territory. Furthermore, in July 2022 the Selkirk Natural Resource District provided the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) with a set of options, developed by licensees in the Revelstoke area, that allow for the continued harvest of Old Growth forests. These options do not include adequate protections for old forests, caribou, and the many other values on our territory.

“The Province’s failure to protect Old Growth forests and critical caribou habitat has direct adverse impacts on our ability to maintain our culture and exercise our Title and Rights. It has resulted in the extinction and near-extinction of species that we have always relied on for food, social and ceremonial purposes, including southern mountain caribou. We have no reason to believe that BC intends to change their approach significantly enough to secure a thriving Southern Mountain Caribou population. Further, we are confident that BC is not able to rationalize their continued infringement on Syilx rights. This approach The Province cannot infringe our constitutionally protected rights without justification, or make decisions which will effectively extinguish those rights.” y̓ilm̓ ixwm Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band, states.

  • According to population estimates from late 2021:
    Six out of 17 subpopulations (herds) of southern mountain Caribou have been extirpated, or functionally extirpated, since 2003; is contrary to the honour of the Crown, your government’s constitutional obligations, and its commitments pursuant to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
  • The most southerly herds of southern mountain Caribou are at continued risk of extirpation;
  • Seven subpopulations (herds) are located on Syilx territory of which 3 are extirpated, 2 are threatened and declining, and 2 are stable but not self-sustaining; and
  • The ultimate cause of caribou loss is the continued loss and alteration of caribou habitat.

As such, the ONA require that the Province halt the cutting of old growth forests on Syilx territory, and meet with our leadership to determine a fulsome criteria for the issuance of cutting permits and protection of forests.

~

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

For information please contact:

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

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

Media Release


Building a Better Future Bursary Receipents

August 11th, 2022

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

This year the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Fortis BC and EMB Management Ltd. provided a total of 12 awards to financially support eligible Syilx Okanagan Nation students. 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 2022 recipients are:

2022 Bursary Announcement

In the Face of Continued Colonial Practices, Syilx Okanagan Nation Sign the axá iʔ sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxítət x̌l iʔ nəqsil̓tət (Family Declaration) at Annual General Assembly to Protect Children and Families

July 28th, 2022

snkykntn (Revelstoke), Syilx Territory:  From July 26 – 28, 2022, the Okanagan Nation Alliance hosted our Annual General Assembly in snkx̌ykntn. This annual event gathered Syilx Okanagan members from across the Nation — including leaders, Elders, traditional knowledge keepers, youth and community members — to celebrate the many successes that have taken place for Syilx people over the last year and reflect on the persistent challenges that we collectively face together.

This gathering witnessed the historic signing of the axá iʔ sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxítət x̌l iʔ nəqsil̓tət (Family Declaration). Over the last two years Language Speakers and Elders throughout the Nation have worked diligently over the years to develop a Declaration that upholds our Syilx laws and affirms our rights and responsibilities to have the ability to protect the health and well-being our children and families. This document is deeply rooted in Syilx captikwl, language, and worldview, while providing a clear path for moving forward to self-determination. The signing of the Declaration was given further weight and importance considering the visit of the Pope to Turtle Island, yet again bringing to light the trauma of colonization, and the damages that such institutions continue to inflict on our people, and subsequently our family systems.

ki law na (y̓il̓mixʷm Clarence Louie), ONA Tribal Chair, stated that: “Injustices against our children and our families continue to be perpetrated on territory. We are calling on the Province and the Government of Canada to adhere to this Declaration and recognize our inherent rights and responsibilities to take care of our children and families on our own terms and in our own way.”

Carol Holmes, Syilx Elder, shared that: “We need to be responsible for one another. Before contact our families were self-sustaining and interdependent, we cared for our children. Our children were the center, our elders were the center, and so the Declaration that we have embraces those values and those beliefs. We’re no longer going to accept what happened to us, instead what we’re going to do is make sure that our children, our great grandchildren, and our children yet are going to be the strong, fearless, courageous, knowledgeable people that they were meant to be.”

y̓il̓mixʷm Greg Gabriel, Penticton Indian Band, also reiterated that: “The Declaration speaks to our teachings, our captikwl, as to who we are, Syilx Nation people. The guiding principles built into the Declaration will provide us guidance and be used by future generations on how we use our traditional values, our teachings and how we look after our families for the many years yet to come. This expression of Syilx law in relation to our families cannot be ignored; we are exercising our inherent jurisdiction over Syilx children and families. The governments of Canada and British Columbia are now put on Notice and must step aside as we carry out our sacred responsibilities to our future Syilx Okanagan generations.

Eliza Terbasket, long standing Syilx Okanagan Nation Wellness Committee member shared that   I believe this declaration embeds the future actions that will move our nation forward and ensuring our children are safe and cared for.  The Declaration is vital piece of our Nation building raising our children to be always proud of who they are and striving in their language and culture.” 

In addition to this years Annual Assembly the people spoke to the importance of hosting this years gathering in the north-eastern part of Syilx territory. The Syilx Okanagan Nation’s connection to the territory has been profoundly affected by the Columbia River Treaty (CRT). The 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 having our Elders and Youth being on the land together to share in our Syilx history, stories, language, and perspectives, we are working to ensure that these connections continue to be handed down for generations to come. Alongside pertinent presentations and dialogues, there was also a variety of cultural activities taking place, including on-the-land tours to Syilx ancestral villages and places of cultural significance.

The Assembly ended today July 28 2022 and it was good to see our people gathering post-COVID-19.

~

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

Media Release


Notice of Activities at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Ok Falls fishing site) During the 2022 Fishing Season

July 18th, 2022

Starting the week of July 18th the Province of BC will be constructing a fence along the eastern bank of the river at sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Ok Falls fishing site) to try to make access to the fishing site along the shoreline easier and uninhibited. The area may have construction and monitoring activity during the 2022 fishing season.

  • In an effort to maintain safe access and delineate the adjacent private residence from sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ, a fence is being constructed.
  • Osoyoos Indian Band monitors will be on-site to ensure safe access is maintained during this time.
  • Please avoid construction and monitoring activities as much as possible during the construction period.
  • The construction activities will also include removal of debris on the access rout to provide safe walking access.

The gate along the dam has been unlocked to allow access to the fishing site from the north side of the river. Water flows are high and fast moving, so please use extreme caution both along the dam and the shoreline at the site.

For more information please contact:
Richard Bussanich, ONA Biologist
Tel: 250-707-0095 ext. 108 // E: RBussanich@syilx.org

Shayla Lawrence, ONA Biologist
Tel: 250-707-0095 ext.109 // E: SLawrence@syilx.org


Okanagan sc’win (sockeye) Information and Updates

July 13th, 2022

Based on harvest information gathered since 2008, we are estimating a higher than average number of sc’win (sockeye salmon) to return to the Columbia watershed (and thus Okanagan subbasin) for the 2022 season. Returns of sc’win are monitored by tracking the numbers of fish that go through various dams and sites on the Columbia River. There is already roughly 553,172 sc’win counted at the mouth of the Columbia River — 83% above the average of 300,000 adults that tend to return per year. We estimate a total of 450,000 sc’win to make it to Wells Dam (on the Columbia River in central Washington), many of which will return to the Territory. At these levels, various fisheries have begun to open along the Columbia River — including opportunities for Syilx food and communal fisheries in the Okanagan sub-basin, alongside a small to medium scale commercial fishery in August 2022.

Food, Social and Ceremonial Fishery: With an abundantly high return of sc’win we are encouraging all Syilx members to get out and fish as part of a Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fishery. Individual Syilx fishers, please be advised to fish nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) and the sq̓ awsitkw (Okanagan River) downstream of Skaha from late June to July 31st, before water temperature become salmon “unfriendly” (above 21 degrees C). When going out to fish, please make sure to have your status card available, as Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers will be out periodically to ensure only Syilx Okanagan Nation members are fishing at this time. The FSC fishing will be prioritized between July 1 – August 1, 2022, with members being the only fishers out catching sc’win at this time. Individual members can continue to fish, but the Communal and Economic Fisheries will start on August 2 and end on August 31, 2022 at the latest.

Communal and Economic Fishery: Due to this exceptionally high return of sc’win, the ONA will conduct a communal fishery, whereby fish will be caught by seine boats, and distributed out to member communities throughout the month of August. The ONA’s communal fishery is tentatively planned for August 2 – 31, 2022. ONA will ensure the coordination of fish distribution to member communities. Please expect a higher allocation in early August, pending catches. ONA’s current goal is to distribute 5000-10000 sockeye to community.

ONA will also conduct an economic fishery as part of an ongoing strategic approach to recover some of the costs incurred by conducting the communal fishery and food fish distribution across the Nation.

In line with our commitment to being innovative and exploring best practices for resource use, we are launching a pilot project. We will split costs and catches for the communal and economic fishery – 50/50 with a contracted fisher. Cost recovery for operations will be shared evenly between the ONA and the contractor, alongside equal shares for catches. The hope is that this may innovate the way that we are able to make the communal fishery, and food fishery monitoring, financially sustainable.

As a means of ensuring integrity and transparency in this model, an ONA Harvest Coordinator will tally all fish landed at the dock in Osoyoos, with the fisher keeping a separate log of catch, alongside an independent third party, who will be counting and conducting quality inspections of fish for document comparison and quality assurance. ONA will be monitoring the returns and will end fishing prior to spawning activity at the end of August.

If successful, this model could potentially be used for other high abundant years but will be reviewed and considered in the future. We hope that this type of arrangement allows for the support of the communal harvest and distribution out to community — ensuring that this practice is sustainable for years to come

Recreational Fishery: Due to the abundance of sockeye returning a recreational fishery will most likely also be triggered in August, 2022. We are currently advocating and lobbying with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who regulate recreational fisheries, to ensure that it is limited to a set number of days and times in the month of August.

For More Information Please Contact:

Harvest Planning Management

Richard Bussanich, ONA Biologist

Tel: 250-707-0095 ext. 108
E: RBussanich@syilx.org

Shayla Lawrence, ONA Biologist

Tel: 250-707-0095 ext.109
E: SLawrence@syilx.org

Landing Site and Ice Distribution

Michael Reid, Landing Site Manager

Tel: 250- 499-0617

Herb Alex, Equipment and Logistics Support
Tel: 250-707-0095 ext. 354
E: halex@syilx.org

Communal Harvest Distribution
Menno Salverda, Nation Planner Health
Tel: 250-707-0095 ext. 227
E: NationPlanner.Health@syilx.org

Community Bulletin – sc’win Update


Syilx Okanagan Nation Demands Maximum Sentence for Fraudulent Child Protection Worker Robert Riley Saunders

June 21st, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Syilx Okanagan Nation is disturbed and disgusted by the plea deal struck between the Crown and Robert Riley Saunders and demands that the court provide justice for the many youth harmed by Saunders’ egregious abuses of power. Saunders stole at least $460,000 from youth, many First Nations, in government care for over a decade.

On June 22, 2022, at 9:00 am the ONA will hold a Syilx Nation Day of Action at the Kelowna Courthouse as part of the response to these injustices. We are calling on our Community members, guests in the territory, and non-Indigenous allies to join us at the Courthouse to stand in solidarity with all those harmed by Saunders’ actions. Given the number of aggravating factors already proven, the ONA also calls upon the BC Supreme Court to apply the maximum penalty possible to Saunders’ sentence.

“These injustices continue to be perpetrated on our lands, on our territory. As such, the Syilx Okanagan Nation demands justice for our vulnerable youth and calls upon the courts to use the full extent of the law to hold Saunders accountable. We challenge the Province to take immediate steps to ensure all social workers working for the Ministry of Children and Family Development are required to be registered with a public body to put in place monitoring and accountability safeguards. As long as government bureaucracies continue to perpetuate status quo and does nothing to enact real change and these criminal acts will persist. Truth and Reconciliation will forever remain ambiguous and our children and youth will continue to be victims of systems that fail them” stated y̓il̓mixʷm (Chief) Greg Gabriel, Syilx Child and Family Governance Representative.

Saunders, a Kelowna man, stole at least $460,000 from vulnerable youth in government care, most of whom were First Nations, while he worked as a child protection worker for the Ministry of Children and Family Development with a falsified social work degree. Saunders spent over a decade intentionally preying upon vulnerable First Nations youth for his own personal gain, siphoning off funds from over 100 victims in Ministry care. His theft of the funds meant for Indigenous youth in care went unnoticed by his supervisor until 2017, and Saunders was fired in 2018. Despite the significant impact he had on over 100 vulnerable youth, including two who died, and the amount of money he stole, Saunders was able to hide from RCMP and avoid arrest for over a year. Adding further insult to injury, he is currently out on bail in the Kelowna area.

The Syilx Okanagan Nation joins multiple other organizations, from the BC Association of First Nations, the First Nations Leadership Council, the First Nations Summit, to the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in the demand for justice.

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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, Syilx Child and Family Governance Representative
T: 250-490-7250

Media Release


Syilx Okanagan Nation Members Continue to Run on the Land to Raise Awareness on Suicide and Violence in Community

June 1st, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:  The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) will host the 14th annual Spirit of Syilx Unity Run from June 3-5, 2022. This year participants will be starting at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and finishing at the Syilx Indian Residential School monument on the Penticton Indian Band reserve. This run was initiated in 2008 by Syilx youth to raise awareness about the issues of suicide and violence that our communities continue to face. The event will bring approximately 125 Syilx youth and members from across the Nation together, running through 288 kilometers.

WHY: The Syilx Okanagan Nation faces disproportionate levels of violence and suicide, alongside an opioid overdose crisis. This has been further compacted by severe environmental emergencies that have increased over the years. The Unity Run is one of the most impactful approaches the Nation has to addressing these issues collectively, 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 youth and members to be out on the land to connect with each other throughout the Nation.  It is an innovative and holistic means of promoting land-based learning and 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.

WHEN: June 3-5, 2022

WHERE: From the Kamloops Indian Residential School to the Syilx Indian Residential School Monument on the Penticton Indian Band.

MORE INFO:  More information on the event can be found at www.syilx.org/events/spirit-of-syilx-youth-unity-run/

The Okanagan Nation Response Team, Sәx kәnxit әlx “Those Who Help” is a team of Syilx community members who have extensive training in the areas of suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response. The team is comprised of community members trained in responding to community crisis. They receive training at least twice a year to enhance their skills to better serve the communities they respond to.

Contact: Raven Mikuletic, ONA Communications Coordinator
E: rmikuletic@syilx.org
T: 250-707-0095 ext 121

Media Advisory


Okanagan Nation Alliance and EMB Management Ltd. Announce Annual Commitment to ONA’s “Building a Better Future Bursary” Program

May 29th, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is pleased to announce that EMB Management Ltd’s has committed $10,000 annually to the ONA’s Building a Better Future Bursary Program. This program assists Syilx students in their pursuit of education.

This announcement demonstrates the power of supporting First Nations students. “We will build and maintain relationships with First Nations communities in whose traditional territories we operate — to devise and implement strategies to educate, train, and provide employment opportunities with EMB for member communities,” Eric Larson, GM of EMB Management Ltd stated.

“It is important to remember and be reminded that education is, and has always been, an important part of Syilx culture and values. This includes fostering partnerships that support our ability to support our Syilx learners and highlight the fact that we truly believe in their lives, their future, and their educational pursuits,” Pauline Terbasket, ONA Executive Director, also stated.

As such, we are currently pursuing candidates to apply for all scholarships, bursaries, and awards. For more information on how to apply, as well as other Building a Better Future funding, please visit: www.syilx.org/about-us/operations/building-a-better-future-bursary/

This year the application deadline is 3:00 pm on July 15, 2022. Recipients will be announced on July 27, 2022, at the ONA’s Annual General Assembly in Revelstoke, BC.

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The Building a Better Future program provides support to eligible Syilx Okanagan Nation member students. This scholarship, bursary and awards program recognizes student achievement and encourages Syilx Okanagan Nation members to pursue post-secondary education. This program was initiated in 2009 with a partnership between Terasen Gas (now FortisBC) and has provided support to Syilx learners on an annual basis.

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

Announcement


Syilx Okanagan Nation Demands Justice for Victims One Year After Remains of 215 Children Unearthed at Kamloops Indian Residential School

May 23rd, 2022

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: On May 27, 2022, the Syilx Okanagan Nation recognizes the one-year anniversary of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announcing the unearthing of 215 remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Children from across many First Nations, including the Syilx Okanagan Nation, attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School, and this revelation is felt by every Syilx Okanagan family. This horrifying discovery has confirmed what our survivors have said for years — 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 continues to be felt today. The loss of language and culture for the Syilx Nation, and harm created, cannot be underestimated as expressed by Jack Kruger,” I for one can’t accept an apology in any form.  I don’t want money; I want our language and culture back.  I want the church to pay for every native of every Nation, every Syilx that wants to go to school and receive proper support to learn their language and culture again,”  Over the last year we have witnessed the general public in Canada become aware of these issues, and yet there has been little to no movement towards ensuring meaningful justice for the victims. Syilx Okanagan people and families affected by this news still have no information regarding the specificities of these remains, and no pathway has been provided for how to move forward. Grace Greyeyes added,” I want to see those people responsible for what happened to those children have justice done for our people.  They need to acknowledge the fact that those schools were designed by the Church and by the Canadian Government to get rid of the Indians”.

“After one year of this issue being recognized by the Government of Canada, we have seen no movement towards meaningful justice for these victims, hollow apologies will not suffice. We continue to demand that the federal government take direct action to criminally investigate these findings. This is murder and it’s not being investigated as such,” Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair stated. To date no person or institution have been charged in these egregious crimes.

We continue to collectively send prayers to all peoples who are being impacted by these tragic findings, alongside all Tribal Nations that continues to be re-traumatized by Indian Residential Schools. All these spirits deserve the space to be honored, grieved, and properly cared for. We are also calling on all people to recognize May 27 by wearing orange shirts and supporting Indian Residential School survivors everywhere.

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

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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/

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


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

May 16th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Zimmer
mzimmer@syilx.org
250-304-7341

Richard Bussanich
rbussanich@syilx.org
250-215-0255


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

May 16th, 2022

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

WHEN & WHERE:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Advisory – Salmon Ceremonies 2022


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

May 4th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Contact:

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead

E: tmontgomery@syilx.org

T: 250-862-6866

Media Advisory


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

April 28th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To arrange interviews, please contact:
Lauren Terbasket: 2504991940
laurenterbasket@gmail.com

Media Release


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

April 4th, 2022

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

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

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

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

~

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

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


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

March 23rd, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

For more information please contact:

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

Media Release


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

March 2nd, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Tara Montgomery, ONA – Communications Lead
Mobile: 250-718-7249 E-mail: TMontgomery@syilx.org

Corinne Jackson, OBWB – Communications Director
Office: 250-469-6271 Office: 250-862-6866
E-mail: Corinne.Jackson@obwb.ca

Media Release

 


Open Letter Regarding Freedom Convoy Hate Crimes

February 15th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Letter Regarding Freedom Convoy Hate Crimes


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

January 28th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 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/

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


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

January 19th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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


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

January 13th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

December 17th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information please contact:

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

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

Media Release


wápupxn (lynx) Project

November 19th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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


One River, Ethics Matter Conference

November 11th, 2021

Okanagan Nation Alliance and UBCO, host Columbia River Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About OREM

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

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

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

People can register for the event at: https://ubc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aKQEqnHxQ3y7L0TIMqb52A

One River, Ethics Matter Event Advisory


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

October 29th, 2021

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

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

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

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

For information please contact:

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

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

Media Release – Motor Vehicle Restrictions


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

October 7th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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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