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Focus Area: Community Impact Fund Grant Program: Systems Change
ONA Water Forum at Headwater Lakes

Co-Creating a Vision for Conservation in the Okanagan

Restoring traditional Syilx knowledge in managing water in the Okanagan

By Madeline Barber

Photo courtesy of Okanagan Nation Alliance


siwɬkʷ (water) is a part of us and a part of all life. siwɬkʷ will always find a way around obstructions: under, over and through. It teaches us that anything is possible.

– Syilx Nation Siwɬkʷ Declaration

According to Tessa Terbasket, when it comes to managing water in the Okanagan, there needs to be a shift “to see water as more of a relation and not a resource for just human benefits. And just change that whole perspective of ‘What can we do for water?’ versus ‘What can water do for us?’” Terbasket is part of the Syilx Nation and a member of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. She works for the Okanagan Nation Alliance where she focuses on watershed planning and governance initiatives.

When it comes to land use planning in the Okanagan Basin, current frameworks simply aren’t working. The quality and quantity of the water in local lakes are being threatened due to climate change and other human activity, which in turn threatens the wellbeing of communities, the ability to access clean drinking water, and habi