Okanagan Indian Band 'vehemently and vigorously' opposing neighbouring band's claim to Silver Star Mountain - InfoNews

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Okanagan Indian Band 'vehemently and vigorously' opposing neighbouring band's claim to Silver Star Mountain

FILE PHOTO: Silver Star Mountain Resort
Image Credit: Silver Star Mountain Resort
March 02, 2017 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Letters back and forth between the Okanagan Indian Band and Splatsin First Nation illustrate just how complex traditional territorial rights are at Silver Star Mountain.

The strongly worded letters came just days after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Splatsin First Nation and Silver Star Mountain Resort. The agreement set the “foundation for collaboration amongst the two parties moving into the future” including “protecting and enhancing cultural resources” according to a Feb. 21 press release from the band and the resort. It says the Splatsin and Secwepemc people travelled to the mountain for various cultural activities including hunting, and gathering wild food and medicine.

An open letter obtained by iNFOnews.ca, dated Feb. 23, expresses the Okanagan Indian Band’s opposition to the Memorandum of Understanding on the basis that Silver Star Resort is located within the “exclusive and unextinguished territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.”

“The Okanagan Indian Band vehemently and vigorously opposes the Splatsin First Nation's claims that the vicinity and area encompassing the Silver Star Mountain Resort are within the Splatsin's First Nation's area of caretaker responsibility,” Chief Byron Louis says in the letter.

Louis says the Okanagan Indian Band has the responsibility to ensure the nation’s territorial integrity is fully protected, and is committed to upholding laws passed down from ancestors.

“The Okanagan Indian Band has upheld these responsibilities on behalf of its members and the collective membership of the Syilx Okanagan Nation for millennia,” Louis says.
Louis references a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding his band has with Silver Star Mountain Resort and says they have a positive working relationship, however he points out the provincial government ‘required’ the resort to consult other First Nations under its ‘flawed process’ for development agreements.

“(The) divisive and underhanded tactics of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources - Mountain Resorts Branch has resulted in an utter and complete disregard of the Syilx Okanagan Nation's exclusive title, rights and interests in the Silver Star area,” Louis says.

The band is calling for an immediate suspension in the province’s requirement for the resort to consult with the Splatsin First Nation, and wants a meeting with senior provincial officials to address the ‘longstanding and escalating issue’ of Splatsin’s ‘numerous attempts’ to claim land rights.

“For far too long, the Okanagan Indian Band has been forced to defend Syilx Okanagan territorial boundaries against encroachment from other First Nation communities attempting to assert and claim interests within Syilx Okanagan territory. The unnecessary burden of defending our territorial integrity simply because the provincial government's inability to sort out its own internal processes is completely unacceptable.”

‘THERE IS MIXED SYILX AND SECWEPEMC BLOOD’

In a response letter to the Okanagan Indian Band, Splatsin chief Kukpi7 Wayne Christian says their oral history shows they also have cultural ties to the Silver Star area.

“Splatsin is a border community within the Secwepemc nation and there is mixed Syilx and Secwepemc blood within the community,” Christian says.

He says the mixed ancestry stems from intermarriage that "ocurred post contact as our community was nearly decimated by smallpox.”

“Splatsin holds much oral history of the Silver Mountain area as it was, and still is, an important component of our season round,” Christian says.

His band recognizes the mountain as ‘shared’ between the two communities and says it is reaffirmed as such by elders at a meeting in 2002.

“All First Nations face the same challenges in getting our inherent title and rights recognized. We should not have to fight amongst ourselves on this matter,” Christian says.

For its part, the provincial government says it will be responding directly to the Okanagan Nation Alliance but declined specific details ‘out of respect for all.’ In response to a request for an interview, the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resources sent a written statement, which reads, in part:

“The B.C. government has been in touch with both Nations highlighting B.C.'s requirement to consult with both Nations and that neither consultation nor consultation agreements with one Band or Nation in no way limits the Aboriginal rights of the other Band or Nation. While it is best for neighbouring First Nations to work together to resolve differences, the Province is always prepared to facilitate discussion where First Nations find it helpful.”

When contacted, Silver Star’s managing director Ken Derpak declined an interview.

“Out of respect for all parties we won’t make any further comment at this point,” Derpak says.

Letters from both bands can be read, in full, below. 

02_23_2017 Okib - 2017 Feb 23 - Sfn-moflnro-marr-pbc - Splatsin Silver Star Mou (002) by Charlotte Helston on Scribd

 

 

Opposition to Silver Star MOU March 1, 2017 by Charlotte Helston on Scribd

 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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