Syilx siwɬkʷ Strategy

Project Overview:

The Syilx siwɬkʷ Strategy 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. It’s 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.

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.

The Strategy includes the unique perspectives and input of more than 100 community members from all eight Syilx Okanagan communities whose voices are reflected in this strategy. It is grounded in extensive work with Syilx Nation citizens from all of our communities. The process of developing this Strategy has brought together the voices of Elders, youth, knowledge holders, leaders, hunters, fishers, and harvesters to articulate the Syilx principles and practices associated with siwɬkʷ stewardship as well as to discuss concerns about the well-being of siwɬkʷ today and in the future.

Project Goals:

To uphold the Chief’s Executive Council’s Mandate of ensuring there is accessible, clean and healthy water for the generations to come. The Syilx People have expressed on a consistent basis that water must be treated with kindness and respect; it must be treated as a relative. Our laws are derived from the foundations that captikʷɬ defines and is carried by our yilmixem (Chiefs) and is the Syilx cultural way of knowing and of being. After interviews, workshops and conversations it is clear that a unified approach is the way forward. One of the strongest points mentioned by the majority of community members is that we need to act now and be true leaders in water protection and management.

Project Plan:

To provide approaches to protecting siwɬkʷ for each of the key threats identified in the Strategy document. Each watershed and sub-basin has different needs in terms of the reduction of threats to our relative siwɬkʷ. Within some watersheds, scarcity is an issue while in others our siwɬkʷ is impacted by logging and industrial use. Often impacts to our siwɬkʷ are a combination of many issues.

PRIORITY ACTIONS:

  1. Develop Syilx siwɬkʷ laws in alignment with siwɬkʷ Declaration
  2. Assert Syilx siwɬkʷ authority
  3. Protect and restore siwɬkʷ
  4. Take the lead on Syilx research related to siwɬkʷ
  5. Engage in Syilx adaptation planning for siwɬkʷ
  6. Build collective siwɬkʷ consciousness

Project Progress/Status:

The Strategy is a living document that will adapt to the ever-changing societal and environmental landscape. There is always more work to be done and things to improve and learn. The ONA role provides technical expertise, produce results and discuss potential—and at time obvious and needed.

Project Team:

Tessa Terbasket, NR Cultural Research Lead: tterbasket@syilx.org

Related Project(s):