24 Feb 2010

Okanagan Indian Band (OIB) challenge loggers

Excerpt of an interview with Jeannette Armstrong (Syilx, Okanagan) from the Native Perspectives on Sustainability project (above)

The Okanagan Indian Band (OIB) launched a “protective blockade” this morning, February 23, at the Okanagan campsite near Bouleau Lake in southern British Colombia.

A member of the greater Okanagan Nation, the OIB say they have been left with no choice but to stop the logging company Tolko Industries from endangering their water supply.

“This is not an action we took lightly, nor is it one we commenced without exhausting all of our legal options,” states OIB Chief Fabian Alexis, in a recent press statement. “However given the active collusion between the Ministry of Forests and Tolko and the continued indifference of the federal government, we had no choice but to act…”

Since at least 2003, the OIB has been seeking the legal protection of their water, which is provided by the Browns Creek watershed. The region has been extensively logged for more than forty years; and now, the Okanagan People fear that any further logging will threaten their health and safety.

“The fact is that when our reserves were first established it was with the clear understanding that our water supplies would be maintained for future generations,” notes Chief Alexis. “Instead the federal government abandoned its fiduciary obligation and allowed the Province of British Columbia to sell off our water rights thus resulting in a number of fish bearing creeks that run through our reserve being reduced to dry gullies.”

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