News

Okanagan Indian Band wants rail line added to reserve land

A First Nations’ land claim could create uncertainty for a proposed Okanagan rail trail.

The Okanagan Indian Band is asking the federal government to purchase the Kalamalka Lake portion of the abandoned rail line for inclusion to its reserve.

“That rail bed is part of the Commonage claim,” said Chief Byron Louis.

“The whole area is up for negotiation.”

Canadian National is currently going through an abandonment process for the rail line and the Okanagan Rail Trail Society is urging all levels of government to purchase the land for a recreational corridor.

If the Kalamalka Lake portion was added to the Okanagan Indian Reserve, Louis isn’t sure if a trail would fit into the band’s long-term goals.

“We would look at what we could do with it. The band would sit down and make a decision,” he said.

The Okanagan Rail Trail Society became aware of the band’s request to Ottawa Monday.

“It wasn’t expected but it’s not surprising they would claim it,” said Duane Thomson, a society director and retired history professor.

“If something couldn’t be negotiated with the band, this would present a difficulty. But it’s not to say it (reserve land) would be insurmountable. It wouldn’t shut us off entirely because there’s the old highway along the Kalamalka Lake section.”

Under CN’s abandonment process, the federal government has until today to decide if it will purchase the rail line. If it does not, the provincial government has 30 days to make an acquisition, followed by local government having a 30-day period to buy the land.

“We will see where it goes,” said Thomson of the band’s actions.

The Commonage reserve was established for the Okanagan Indian Band in 1877, but soon after, the land was removed and sold to non-native settlers.

“The government illegally took the reserve away,” said Louis.

“Our entitlement to the Commonage land remains and the federal government cannot simply ignore our unresolved claim to our ancestral lands.”

Louis says while a process for negotiations was created, the federal government walked away from the table.

“It’s been like trying to pull teeth to get this resolved. It falls in the court of the federal government,” he said.

When asked if the band prefers to own the land or to accept funds in lieu of the property, Louis said, “Money is nice but it’s easily spent. Land is always there.”

 

 

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Lumby youth lend support to Winter Games
 
Doctors prescribe additional hospital beds
 
Election 2014: Economy dominates Vernon forum
Tree knocked into house by storm
 
Rotary connector trail extension enhances Rails to Trails project
 
TIMELINE: An interactive history of terrorist attacks and plots in Canada
Frozen beef burgers recalled for possible E. coli contamination
 
Telethon dials up support for kids
 
Feisty kitty a survivor

Community Events, November 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 31 edition online now. Browse the archives.