Mark Brett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
For a century, the Osoyoos Indian Band has celebrated the reclaiming of a very special piece of land on its traditional territory. More than 100 people gathered Friday on the one-acre property on Hawthorn Place, which backs onto the Okanagan River in Okanagan Falls. For thousands of years, this land has been the ancestral home of Indigenous peoples’ culture and sustainable development. While that’s a fraction of the estimated 1,618 hectares (4,000 acres) of its original protected area, the OIB hopes to reclaim it, and for Chief Clarence Louie, it’s at least the beginning.
“We’re going to take back our land, and if it takes an acre at a time, that’s it,” Louie said at the conclusion of the ceremony. “Our reservation was stolen, this reservation here was taken from the Osoyoos Indian tribe in 1913. Now, 108 years later, we are allowed to return to this place.” Our people from now on The beginning can come here, no one can say to them, “What are you doing here?” No one can say to them, ‘Do you have the right to be here? We don’t have to climb over anyone’s fence. “The band had to use their own money to buy the property from a private seller. “It annoys me a bit with our money, but the owner of the property should get paid. Land is more important than money,” the chief said. “You can’t kick someone off their property without compensation. You can’t take our land away like the government did to us. “
Louie added that he understands most Aboriginal land claims involve private property and are not on the table, but other sites such as nearby provincial parks and state land should be returned to the band. The single acre is part of a 71-acre parcel that was removed from the conservation area by the government. To the chief’s particular dismay, little has changed since the days of demonstrations and lockdowns. “You still have to force, we still have kicks,” he said. “Our people didn’t force the federal and provincial governments to settle the land issue until the 60’s and we’re still arguing over the land issue 60 years later.” Maybe we have to put another hurdle in OK Falls? By January 1974 the Information Highway and Rail Blockade initiated by OIB Director Jim Stelkia. Many of the surviving lockdown participants attended Friday’s ceremony. “We don’t know what we’re going to face, but we know this is the beginning of a series of demonstrations that are going to happen. Now is the time to take action to resolve the claims,” said the Penticton Indian Tribe, which along with other chiefs participated in the blockade hereditary Chief Adam Enyas recalled. “With the exception of a couple who tried to run us over, the drivers were generally very polite. After that we felt like we should feel safe and protect us.”
PIB elder Jack Kruger, who was also there, told the crowd: “All the leaders used to say we were tired of living on our knees and we wanted to get up and that’s how we did it.” They (demonstration who) intend to stand on this land so that you children may have it in the future. They’ve done it all for you, and I think it’s useful that we’re here today. PIB Knowledge Custodian Richard Armstrong shared the legend of the coyote snk̓lip who brought salmon to the river that ran through the property before humans arrived. He said of the designated caretaker, “Beaver , Muskrat and Fisherman” and the monument represented by the rocky outcrop by the river. Finally, he left a message for young people: “Do what you can to preserve this heritage. “For Louie. The time to talk to the government is over. Now is the time to act.” Land confirmation is nice gesture, but they won’t build a house on my rez. I also want to see real reconciliation. It’s good to see that the province is taking baby steps, but I’d like to see adult steps here. “Satisfied with the reasons for celebrating Friday.” Our people gathered here, fished here, died here, and were born here for thousands of years. Now this land is ours again. “
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