syilx family with 2 Elders and teenager in need of support after losing home to fire

Content Warning: Loss due to fire, mentions of residential “schools,” and animal loss. Please read with care. 

A syilx family, which includes two Elders and a teenager, is in need of support after a fire destroyed their home.

A devastating fire began in nk̓maplqs (top of Okanagan lake), on the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) on Feb. 22. The fire moved through a home in the Round Lake area late in the afternoon and left the family with no material belongings.

Wilma and Jimmy, both residential “school,” survivors built their own home in 1986, and took on the care of raising their nephew who is now in high school, according to a statement from the OKIB. 

The beloved community Elders lost important syilx artifacts, family memorabilia, and all of their possessions. Wilma, Jimmy and their nephew escaped the fire with only the clothes on their backs. Unfortunately, their animals did not make it out. 

Wilma and Jimmy could often be seen doing work around their house and yard, says the OKIB. It was more than a family home, but a community home. Wilma would pour flour into a big bowl and create magic in her bannock, and hosting was an honour for the couple. 

Now, the community is rallying to support the beloved Elders. Unfortunately, they do not have home insurance.

“After all that our members and indeed everyone have gone through over the past few years, this is a major tragedy for the community,” says Byron Louis, Chief of OKIB.

“Wildfire, the pandemic, possible flooding, and now a family is beset by this tragic event. In true syilx spirit, I know that many members, the extended community, and the business community at large will want to help out,” he said in a press release today.

The band is asking anyone in a position to support the couple to direct money to the family’s GoFundMe page.

“In addition, donations of gift cards for food, clothing and gas are being accepted. We ask that you do not donate any physical items at this time due to storage limitations,” reads the statement.

“Band Liaison, Grant Louis will take donations to the family…OKIB is a registered qualified donee, and as such, can issue a donation receipt for tax purposes.”

You can contact Grant Louis at 250-306-7179, [email protected], or Cheryl, the family’s liaison at 250-938-5221, [email protected].

If you are a member of the nation and continue to be impacted by loss from fires, or find yourself struggling with survivors guilt please know help is available. The OKIB Mental Health and Wellness team is available to support you at (250) 540-7416. 

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