Sovereignty
Charlene Roberds standing in solidarity at Sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Little Falls), also known as Okanagan Falls, after Tuesday’s rally. Photo by Chehala Leonard.
Okanagan

IndigiNews of the week: Let’s talk sovereignty

A weekly highlight of what is happening in Indigenous and related news across the Nation.

In this weekly roundup, we share the latest news from across the Okanagan and Turtle Island. This week, let’s talk about sovereignty. In Kelsie Kilawna’s latest article, she explores what the concept actually means in response to common misconceptions and questions raised by readers. As well, we take a look at water rights and land disputes at Sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ (Little Falls), also known as Okanagan Falls. 

Based on this week’s stories, one thing remains clear and that is Indigenous peoples, the First Peoples of Turtle Island, are here to stay, we know our rights and we will support each other. 

Worth your time  

  • In Kelsie Kilawna’s latest, What does sovereignty actually mean in Canada?, she writes, “In our stories reporting on the raids and rise in business [at Indigenous dispensary Tupa’s Joint], the concept of sovereignty raised a few questions among readers.” Kilawna discusses what sovereignty is with Okanagan Indian Band councillor Dan Wilson, who expands on what sovereign nations are, and how the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and Section 35 of the Canadian constitution help to explain it all. When Kilawna asks Wilson if Indigenous peoples are Canadian, he responds, “I would say, we are allies of the Crown, but no. … We never surrendered, there was no formal document, no treaty, where the Crown has a bill of sale.”
  • In The Indigenous communities that predicted Covid-19, BBC Travel asks, “For hundreds of years, indigenous [sic] groups have warned that destroying the environment leads to disease and adversely affects lives and culture. Is the world now ready to listen?” They speak with Indigenous Bribri leader Levi Sucre Romero, who lives in the mountains in a remote part of Costa Rica. Romero explains, “We’re unbalancing the habitat of species, we’re cutting down trees, we’re planting monocultures, we’re filling the world with cities and asphalt and we’re using too many chemicals. It’s a cocktail of bad practices.” Sharing some of his knowledge, he explains further, “My people have cultural knowledge that says when Sibö, our God, created Earth, he locked up some bad spirits. These spirits come out when we’re not respecting nature and living together.”
  • In ‘Trust the process’: Syilx author shares her journey of healing in new book, Elaine Alec, a Syilx and Secwepemc author, mother and business owner, sits down with Kilawna to discuss her new book. “So, my book starts off as my lived experience. It talks about my childhood and being raised by Tuma, who was a language speaker,” explains Alec. “I grew up with her and it talks about the trauma in my life, because my mom was a practicing alcoholic for the first 10 years of my life.” Her book, Calling My Spirit Back, was released on July 24th. 

News of the week

  • In APTN article Ottawa announces $600,000 for Indigenous land guardians, Jamie Pashagumskum writes, “The Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced $600,000 Tuesday for 10 first Nations communities to support the Indigenous Guardians Pilot program that was initiated in 2017.” Many Indigenous communities across Canada are interested in participating. Environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson says, “I have been told by many Indigenous leaders that this would seem as a very positive step forward with respect to both reconciliation but also with respect to a shared sense of responsibility for protecting and enhancing our natural environment and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
  • CBC explores a controversial name change with ‘Emotional and happy’: Some Inuit reflect on Edmonton CFL team’s name change. “Some Inuit say they were in tears, while others say they’ll ‘believe it when [they] see it,’” writes reporter Priscilla Hwang after Edmonton Football Club’s decision earlier this week to no longer use a controversial word in the team’s name. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an Inuk filmmaker, explains, “When non-Inuit would use the word Eskimo to me, it felt like they were being deliberately confrontational — like they’re dominant, they’re in control.” 
  • Washington’s football team to call itself Washington Football Team until it settles on a new name, reports CNN. “The Washington NFL franchise, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, is officially going to change its name to the Washington Football Team.” The change comes after years of the public pressuring the team to change the name as it is derogatory to Indigenous peoples. According to their report, “Washington said it will begin ‘the process of retiring all Redskins branding from team properties whether it be FedExField, Redskins Park, other physical and digital spaces.’”

Okanagan latest

  • In Kelsie Kilawna’s in-depth report, Okanagan Nation fisherman accused of trespassing in dispute over traditional fishing grounds, she explores the land dispute over Okanagan fishermen trying to access their traditional fishing grounds at Okanagan Falls. After weeks of tension between the property owners and the fishermen, the province stepped in and removed part of the fence that is open to public access. Kilawna explores how Section 35 asserts Okanagan Nation Alliance members’ inherent right to fish.
  • In my latest video, I follow-up on Kilwana’s report on the Okanagan fishermen, with Community rallies around Okanagan fishermen in dispute over land rights. Community members rallied together in support of their inherent right to fish and removal of the fence at Okanagan Falls. At the rally, Chief Clarence Louie said, “We are salmon people, so it’s only right that we are here to advocate and to push our inherent right to fish the Okanagan salmon here.”
  • In Westbank First Nation responds to recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, Kelowna Capital News speaks with WFN’s chief administrative officer Pat Fosbery, who has been assessing the measures put in place during the pandemic. “We’re just cautiously hopeful,” he says. “Yes, there’s a spike but I think people anticipate as you go through something like this, that there is going to be a bit of ebb and flow and it’s not just going to be a smooth path.” He also notes that WFN’s elementary school, sənsisyustən House of Learning, is set to reopen in the fall with all appropriate pandemic measures.
  • Check out one of my latest articles, Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Festival successfully kicks off second year, in which I speak with co-founders Jennifer Money and Danielle Crowe on what inspired them to create the festival and how they’ve overcome the challenges of reworking it during a pandemic. Despite all their hurdles, Crowe explains, “I would just like everyone to know that everyone’s welcome.” She also explains the importance of supporting local artists – especially now.  She says, “How important it is to keep supporting these artists through these times … That’s why we, one of the main reasons why we started all of this.”

That’s it for this week! If you have news or information that you want to share, email me: chehala@indiginews.com.