Okanagan Nation Territory, Vernon – In response to threats from Tolko to commence logging of the watershed that supplies the majority of the 1,800 residents of the Okanagan Indian Band with their drinking water, the Okanagan Indian Band membership commenced a protective blockade of the Browns Creek watershed at 7:00 a.m. Monday, February 22nd at the Okanagan campsite located near Bouleau Lake.

“This is not an action we took lightly, nor is it once we commenced without exhausting all of our legal options,” said Okanagan Indian Band Chief Fabian Alexis. “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 to protect our water supply.”

“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,” noted 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.”

“Even as these creeks ran dry the province continued to authorize the industrial clear cutting of the watersheds that provide our drinking water, thus presenting a clear threat to the safety and well being of all residents both indigenous and non-indigenous who live on and near our reserve,” added Chief Alexis.

“As usual, not a peep has been heard from Ottawa over this matter,” noted Chief Alexis. “Ottawa has through its consistent indifference yet again sown the seeds of a conflict that was utterly avoidable had they ever showed any interest in living up to their fiduciary obligations.”

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“Every other non-indigenous community would as a matter of course have their watersheds protected,” stated Chief Alexis. “Thus what we demand for ourselves is a right every non-indigenous Canadian already expects; to have the right to clean drinking water.”

“It is with this fundamental right in mind that I am today announcing the end of all logging in the watersheds that provide our community’s water supply,” said Chief Alexis.

“Thus no commercial logging will be permitted in these areas until further notice. Finally in order to avoid any further repeat or escalation of this conflict we would also advise the Province of British Columbia to stop issuing cutting permits in areas where their title to the land is in dispute and is still a matter to be resolved by the courts,” concluded Chief Alexis.

A map showing the areas where commercial logging is prohibited will be issued by the Okanagan Indian Band later this week.


For more information please contact:

Chief Fabian Alexis cell (250) 306-2838, phone (250) 542-4328