iN PHOTOS: Annual canoe journey into U.S. from Okanagan upholds treaty rights | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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iN PHOTOS: Annual canoe journey into U.S. from Okanagan upholds treaty rights

Herman Edward (far left), one of the founders and organizers of the annual Suk?naqin July 4th Canoe Journey, paddles with community members on nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) for the 2024 canoe journey.
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

Dozens of syilx Okanagan community members paddled 10 boats across the international border on Thursday — challenging the colonial division of their territory and reminding settlers of their Nation’s sovereignty.

This year marked the 23rd annual Suk?naqin July 4th Canoe Journey, where a mix of dugout canoes and other paddling vessels travelled a round trip through their ancestral waters from nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) down to Oroville in “Washington State.

syilx Okanagan community members paddle on nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) for the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
syilx Okanagan community members paddle on nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) for the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

The syilx Okanagan Nation’s homelands extends from north of what’s been briefly known as Vernon across the border to Colville. Under the 1794 Jay Treaty between the Crown and the United States, Indigenous peoples living on either side of the boundary line are “free to pass and re-pass by land,” and “to navigate all the Lakes, Rivers and waters thereof.”

A community member splashes water into a canoe prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey. Photo by
A community member splashes water into a canoe prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey. Photo by
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

Community members carry a canoe to nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Community members carry a canoe to nk’mip (Osoyoos Lake) in sw?iw?s (Osoyoos) prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

“Don’t forget: you’re not Canadian citizens or American citizens. You’re sqilxw (people of the land),” Herman Edward, one of the founders and organizers of the canoe journey, said to paddlers prior to their departure.

“This is your tmx?ulax? (the land).”

Herman Edward ties an eagle staff to the head of a canoe, prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey. Photo by
Herman Edward ties an eagle staff to the head of a canoe, prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey. Photo by
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

While U.S. customs and border agents have been more understanding of the annual event over the years, knowledge keeper cewel’na Leon Louis said that education is still required. 

Out of respect for protocol, paddlers were asked beforehand by organizers to bring their status cards with them. Prayers were made and tobacco offerings were given to the water as the group prepared for their journey.

A community member readies their paddle during the launch of Herman Edward ties an eagle staff to a canoe, prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
A community member readies their paddle during the launch of Herman Edward ties an eagle staff to a canoe, prior to the launch of the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

“Everytime the paddle hits the water, a prayer is being made,” said Louis.

At last year’s canoe journey, Edward said that paddlers are always praying when they’re out on the water — not just for themselves, but for the tmx?ulax?.

“You’re praying for all things that the water gives life to,” he said.

Community members watch as canoes set sail on the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Community members watch as canoes set sail on the 2024 Suk?naqin canoe journey.
Image Credit: Aaron Hemens, Local Journalism Initiative

— This story was originally published by IndigiNews.

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