“…water will always find a way around obstructions, under, over and through” Syilx Water Declaration, 2014.
The Okanagan Basin is experiencing increasingly intense t̓ik̓t and debris-flow hazards, but overall these are not mapped or recorded. Most recently, the Syilx Okanagan territory was heavily impacted by extreme flooding, on and off reserve, in 2017 and 2018. Since contact the population on Syilx Okanagan territory has settled largely in the valley bottom, filling in 85% of natural wetlands, with many permanent residencies existing adjacent to water or on floodplains.
Based on current climate change research, the magnitude of extreme spring freshet is projected to increase, and conditions similar to those experienced in 2017 and 2018 are expected to become the norm. Further, there is limited knowledge as to how these flood hazards interact with exposed communities and ecosystems, nor is there a consistent basin-wide approach to flood risk management.
In March 2018, the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) Chiefs Executive Council (CEC) gave a directive through Tribal Council Resolution 372 for the Natural Resources department to complete a flood risk assessment, floodplain mapping, and an emergency response approach for the Nation. This includes a need to find solutions on how we may collectively better live with t̓ik̓t and have a coordinated approach to emergency response. By developing an Okanagan-basin (including the Similkameen watershed) risk assessment, the Nation can be proactive, and make risk-based decisions regarding their territory and communities, and determine what priority measures can be taken, if possible, to improve safety, reduce, or even negate, the effects of t̓ik̓t events.
t̓ik̓t has always been a natural part of the Syilx landscape. Western approaches to water situate it as a resource to be controlled and exploited for people’s benefit. In contrast, Syilx Okanagan land-based knowledge on water is more localized and holistic. From a Syilx Okanagan perspective, people can enhance their relationship to their local waters and learn how to live with t̓ik̓t. t̓ik̓t also brings many positive benefits to the watershed, such as carrying nutrients for many different species and creating habitat for salmon. To have a truly effective approach to t̓ik̓t, and water management in general, we must integrate Syilx and modern watershed management practices moving forward.
For more information, please visit: www.syilx.org/projects/t̓ik̓t-flood-adaptation-project/