Chief optimistic for action

The chief of the Okanagan Indian Band is hopeful a new relationship between First Nations and the provincial government is unfolding

The chief of the Okanagan Indian Band is hopeful a new relationship between First Nations and the provincial government is unfolding.

Byron Louis attended meetings between 500 aboriginal leaders and the B.C. cabinet in Vancouver Wednesday and Thursday.

“There’s an understanding that the status quo is unacceptable,” he said.

“The province recognizes that and First Nations recognize that but it’s a case of overcoming years of misunderstanding.”

A framework document has the government and First Nations Leadership Council trying to establish a reconciliation agreement that would resolve land claims across the province.

Louis says the government’s actions will be watched closely.

“Sincerity is nice but we need evidence on the ground,” he said.

One of the matters to be resolved is the development of resources, whether it’s oil or timber.

“I have to be optimistic and there is some understanding of development of First Nations economies on the ground and the benefits to local, regional and provincial coffers,” said Louis.

“If we make any progress, it will be through the lens of economic development.”

During the meetings, the Interior Alliance, which represents four nations, including the Okanagan and Shuswap, put the government on notice.

“We are prepared to take direct action to protect our traditional lands from ongoing exploitation without our consent,” states the release.

“We anticipate that such direct action would disrupt the provincial economy as well as the global economy until such time as title and rights are implemented and we are treated fairly, including, being engaged in meaningful land and resource management regimes, based on our traditional laws of the land.”

The Okanagan Indian Band is not part of the alliance and Louis isn’t sure if his community would participate in any actions initiated.

“We are waiting to see what comes out of it,” he said of the Interior Alliance process.

“With the Interior Alliance, it (participation) has to be a decision of our band and the seven bands of the Okanagan Nation Alliance.”

— with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press