Someone's trying to stop Indigenous fishermen from reaching salmon in South Okanagan | Penticton News | iNFOnews

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Someone's trying to stop Indigenous fishermen from reaching salmon in South Okanagan

A dispute over access to the east side (far shore in photo) of Okanagan River by native fishermen four years ago may be rekindling in Okanagan Falls as a strong run of sockeye salmon is expected in the river this year
July 18, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Penticton Indian Band member and former chief Jonathan Kruger has filed a complaint with the RCMP over mischief incidents at the Okanagan Falls dam.

It’s looking like this year’s sockeye salmon returns into Skaha Lake will be one of the best since the native fishery was revived by local First Nations several years ago. Kruger says thousands of fish are expected to make their way upriver into Skaha Lake in the coming weeks, and he feels the mischief is related to an ongoing argument over access by band members to the east side of the river, over private property.

“The run has started early, due to the weather we’ve been having,” Kruger says.

He’s been fishing just below the dam for the past several days, but says someone has been committing the mischief around the dam to discourage band members from fishing there.

Four years ago, we faced issues fishing on the east side of the river, which is adjacent a neighbouring property,” he says.

The salmon runs were too weak in the years in between to support a fishery, so there were few fishermen at the dam, but Kruger says this year’s run should support a fishery around the dam that will see increasing numbers of anglers in the coming days.

“I don’t know what to call it,” he says of the mischief.

Earlier this week someone covered an access gate in Tanglefoot, a sticky compound used to trap insects. The next day, Kruger found hundreds of nails scattered in the area where he parks his truck.

More recently, he reported on social media he found prickly pear cactus mixed into the Tanglefoot and smeared on the gate.

Kruger said he found himself “grateful and honoured” by the number of people who offered support, some of whom turned up at the dam with magnets to help clean up the nails.

Native fishermen Jonathan Kruger found Tanglefoot, a sticky, insect-trapping compound smeared on a gate and fence as well as nails strewn in a parking area near the Okanagan Falls dam earlier this week while fishing for spawning sockeye salmon.
Native fishermen Jonathan Kruger found Tanglefoot, a sticky, insect-trapping compound smeared on a gate and fence as well as nails strewn in a parking area near the Okanagan Falls dam earlier this week while fishing for spawning sockeye salmon.

Fishermen are staying on the high water mark when accessing the river on the disputed land, which is subject to an ongoing court proceeding, Kruger says.

“I dispute the claim the resident owns land to the water. It’s before the courts. There are high water marks all over the province in place, to allow access,” he says, adding the nails were dumped on property owned by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.

“I’m not recommending netting fish this year. The water is too high and swift for walking in. More people will be fishing next week, and it’s unfortunate having to deal with disgruntled residents,” Kruger says.

He calls the fishery a cooperative and successful effort between various governments, the Department of Fisheries and the Okanagan Nation, and it has the support of all levels of government.

“We made it happen, the salmon have come back, and the success is there for everyone. People are fishing in Osoyoos Lake, our people are getting fish, but there is more work to be done,” he says.

Kruger says he’s receiving mounting support from local First Nations, with Okanagan Nation members talking about staging a rally at the dam next week.

Melody Walker, whose family owns the property east of the dam, says she has no comments to make regarding the mischief reported by Kruger.

"The surveyor general has put it to us in writing my mom owns to the natural water boundary. We’re correct, they are trespassing on our property so now they are trying to fight that," she says.

Walker says she is moving forward with a natural water boundary adjustment application because some survey points on the property’s western boundary aren’t correct.

She explained the land in question was once owned by the Okanagan Nation, but was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway in a legal transaction years ago.

“When my grandparents bought it from the owner, it was private property. The reason why my grandparents purchased the property was because the owner(s) of it own to the natural water boundary,” Walker said in an email.

During the last good sockeye run four years ago, conflict arose between natives and an adjacent landowner to the Okanagan River over access below Okanagan Falls dam.
During the last good sockeye run four years ago, conflict arose between natives and an adjacent landowner to the Okanagan River over access below Okanagan Falls dam.

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