“Our sacred siwɬkʷ water teaches us that we have great strength to transform even the tallest mountain while being gentle, soft, and flexible.” Okanagan Nation Water Declaration, 2014
The importance of water in Syilx communities is related through captikwl and the natural laws. Through culture and language, water is a valued component that serves as a reminder of following protocols for future generations to survive in harmony with all living things. The importance of water is translated through oral narrative that teaching the basic notions of living on the land in a sustainable cycle.
siwlɬkʷ is the nsyilxcəәn word for water. The meaning comes from (siw) and (ɬkʷ)ˑ
- The (siw) from siwst-to drink (human)
- The (ɬkʷ) from ɬkʷitkʷ-to lap (animal)
- Together the two parts identify the Syilx ethic that the right to water is equal for animals and humans.
- silwɬkʷ is sacred as the source of all life on the tmxʷulaxʷ.
From intensified droughts to transboundary political negotiations, mounting water challenges in the Okanagan and Columbia River basin cannot be addressed by any single entity, but demand that the diversity of perspectives and values on water be coordinated to create more resilient and dynamic responses to water management. These issues are further intensified by a number of environmental and social stresses that are particularly put on the Headwaters of our watersheds
Water centric planning has been a long standing concept that Syilx people continue to practice as fundamental guiding principles. A place-based stewardship approach has been utilized for many thousands of years to ensure that those with the most knowledge and understanding of siwɬkʷ within a specific region of the Territory are responsible for ensuring that proper measures of respect are carried forward. The Syilx people envision a sustainable territorial land, culture, and ways of life hundreds of years from now. By managing our land responsibly, we aspire to entrust our future generations to a healthy land base.