Bringing the Salmon Home Festival May 10-16, 2021

May 4th, 2021

You’re invited! Participate online at

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, please contact:

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

Grant to Help Planning to Protect Okanagan Lake

April 28th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cailyn Glasser
Natural Resources Manager
Okanagan Nation Alliance

Scott Boswell
Program Manager
Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program

Brittany Lange
Environmental Planner
Regional District of Central Okanagan

Media Release – Okanagan Lake Grant

Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Aboriginal Rights in Arrow Lakes

April 23rd, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information please contact:

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

MEDIA RELEASE- SCC Decision Desautel

Congratulations y̓ilmixʷm ki law na Chief Clarence Louie on being named as an Honorary Degree recipient from the University of British Columbia

March 31st, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Okanagan Territory: It is our Syilx tradition to celebrate the achievements of our people and we would like to celebrate the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) recognition of y̓ilmixʷm ki law na, Clarence Louie, as one of UBC’s 2021 Honorary Degree recipients. Today, we acknowledge and honor ki law na for this extraordinary achievement and recognition of his contribution to the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Syilx Okanagan Nation.

UBC’s recognition stated, “Since his election in December of 1984 as Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band of the Okanagan Nation, Clarence Joseph Louie has consistently emphasized economic development as a means to improve his people’s standard of living. Under his direction, the Band has become a multi‐faceted corporation that owns and manages eleven businesses and five joint ventures, employing approximately one thousand people. At the same time, he has consistently demonstrated his belief that First Nations leaders have a responsibility to incorporate First Nations language and culture in all socio‐economic initiatives as a means to preserve Indigenous heritage.”

Chief Louie has received numerous recognitions and awards including a number of aboriginal business awards over the years. In 2006 he was awarded the Order of British Columbia, in 2017, was named to the Order of Canada and in 2019 he was the first Indigenous inductee into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.
On behalf of the Syilx Okanagan people, we want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to

ki law na, for his years of leadership and commitment to economic development and serving his community and Syilx Okanagan Nation for over 34 years.

Lim’ Limpt.


For More Information Contact:
Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead
Email: Phone: (250) 862-6866

Chief Clarence Louie UBC Degree Media Release

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

March 26th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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


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

For More Information Contact:
Michael Zimmer, ONA Biologist
T 250 304 7341       E

Pike Program Media Release

kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery Update

January 29th, 2021

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

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

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

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

January 18th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

MEDIA RELEASE – Okanagan FinS 2021

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

January 13th, 2021

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:

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

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

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

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

In the Columbia Region, this program further cultivates awareness of salmon’s historical runs from the ocean, upstream to the Kettle River, Columbia, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenay Rivers, including major tributaries the Salmo River and Slocan River. This program is another illustration of the ONA’s commitment to leading salmon restoration throughout all parts of Syilx territory.

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


The Fish in Schools program has run successfully since 2003 in the Okanagan region, and contributes to the kł cpə̓ lk) stim̓ Hatchery’s fry release efforts. The kł cpə̓ lk, stim̓ Hatchery is a testament to the perseverance of the Syilx people to realize their dream of restoring the n’titxw (Salmon) – one of our Four Food Chiefs – to their original habitat and rightful place in our territory.

For More Information Contact:

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager // Tel: (250) 718-5215

MEDIA RELEASE – Columbia FinS 2021

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

December 21st, 2020

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

Chief Clarence Louie, Tribal Chair

T: 250-498-9132

BC Supreme Court Appointment of Ardith Walkem


November 21st, 2020

tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory:  The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is proud to announce the acquisition of nearly $500,000 from the Ending Violence Association of BC, with the funds going towards a Sexual Assault Response Services Program over the next three years.

These funds will build on the longstanding work already carried out by the ONA’s You Empowered Strong (YES) program, which actively supports Syilx Okanagan Nation individuals, families and communities who are dealing with the impacts of trauma caused by violence, including sexual assault and human trafficking. On June 3rd, 2019, “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report on the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls” was released ,outlining 231 Calls to Justice.  These calls demand specific actions to address the current, systemic issues that Indigenous communities experience, and that contribute to the on-going violence towards Indigenous women and girls, including the development of “self-determined and Indigenous-led solutions and services”.   In 2015 the ONA Wellness committee identified the needs to address family violence in the Okanagan Nation, and in Response the YES Program was launched.  On July 18th, 2019, the ONA CEC passed a Tribal Council Resolution to further support the Final Reports Call to Justice, and the continuation of the YES Program.

Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Chairman, states that “The roots of violence toward Syilx women and girls can be traced back to the trauma and systemic racism that communities have experienced over years of colonization. The ONA remains committed to ensuring that Syilx individuals and families across the Nation have proper support, safety, and healing. Through such initiatives as this we are taking decisive action to provide access to community-driven, culturally appropriate and effective services. This work must continue.”


You Empowered Strong (YES) is a program that addresses the need for community-based solutions for Syilx Nation individuals, families and communities who are dealing with the impacts of trauma caused by violence, including sexual assault and human trafficking, and are wanting to address the impacts in a safe, culturally appropriate way. Each community determines how they provide the service based on individual community needs. Prevention and education opportunities are available to communities to enhance knowledge around the many forms of violence and its impacts, personal safety, trauma informed practice among others.


For further information please contact:

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications Lead

T: 1-250-862-6866  E:

Media Release – YES Funding