ks‿kəɬqayxʷntim iʔ siwɬkʷ
(We will protect the water)
“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
Syilx People have an intrinsic relationship with siwɬkʷ (water). The western paradigm has created a human-centric view of siwɬkʷ where humans are separate and superior to siwɬkʷ. From a Syilx perspective, humans are not separate from siwɬkʷ. The very translation of siwɬkʷ is of both humans lapping and animals drinking, establishing that both humans and other life forms have equal right to siwɬkʷ. Maintaining the integrity of siwɬkʷ and respecting its relationship to all life is essential to identity and is entrenched in responsibility to our Territory.
The Syilx siwɬkʷ Strategy 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. This strategy is designed to protect and manage siwɬkʷ in our territory and is built on the understanding that the Syilx People have inherent rights and responsibilities to care for siwɬkʷ. Current western siwɬkʷ management regimes are missing the Syilx worldview and siwɬkʷ is being disrespected. Extreme flooding and other environmental disasters are increasing in frequency and magnitude in Syilx Okanagan Territory, underscoring the need for a cohesive approach to emergency management that emphasizes risk mitigation while continuing to strengthen preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities.
This strategy shares a Syilx vision of our land, siwɬkʷ, and suxʷtxtem responsibilities that include protecting and respecting siwɬkʷ and tmixw (all life forms on Earth). The strategy is in alignment with longstanding directives from the Chiefs Executive Council (CEC) of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) to recognize our responsibility to siwɬkʷ and to improve and enhance Syilx siwɬkʷ governance.
In today’s context both the federal and provincial Crown have made commitments to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, including fully adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), here in British Columbia with Bill #14 legislation and the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The challenge now with all of these pieces of legislation, laws, and regulatory systems is that they are not actualized or harmonized fully and Syilx Nation Title and Rights are not properly included in the provincial and federal Crown’s development.
The Syilx siwɬkʷ Strategy has been developed over the past decade by the ONA and is grounded in extensive work with Syilx citizens from all of our communities. In keeping with the Syilx nʕawqnwixʷ process, the engagement with Nation members was designed to ensure that all voices were able to contribute to the discussions and to the Action Plan.
For more information, please visit: www.syilx.org/projects/syilx-siwɬkʷ-strategy/