Lake Country’s grand opening of the Pelmewash Parkway, which boasts lakefront features such as dog parks, pathways, picnic benches and bike lanes, on Sunday, June 12, was yet another milestone in First Nation and diplomatic relations.
Municipal and provincial government, as well as the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) attribute the parkway’s execution to the development and extension of Highway 97 — erected between Winfield and Oyama — and the institutional partnerships that have formed between government and First Nations.
“We’re very recent when you consider the ties to the land of the original inhabitants of this area,” Lake Country Mayor James Baker said. “We’re hoping to recognize that as much as we can.”
“I’m quite happy with the relationship we have and that we built over the years,” OKIB Chief Byron Louis said.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick understands that historically, Indigenous-government relations have been all but healthy. However, he said, through the developments such as Pelmewash, amendments can start to be made.
“I have great respect for (First Nations Peoples) and their leaders,” Letnick said. “We all really want what’s the best for our citizens and our citizens are the same people… that’s why working with Chief Byron Louis is so important.”
As Lake Country continues to grow, Louis said First Nations’ role in the process is that much more important.
“You can’t protect the land from the outside, so for us to actually participate — that’s one of the things we are doing,” he said. “Also, (we) are providing knowledge of who we are.”
Lake Country will now focus on the intersection of Beaver Lake and Glenmore Road, while prospecting a set of bike trails and pathways to be located throughout the district, guided by the input of residents and government.
The Okanagan Indian Band is one of the eight Band communities of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. The other member Band communities are Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Upper Similkameen Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Penticton Indian Band, Westbank First Nation and the Colville Confederated Tribes.
The term “Sqilxw” refers to the Indigenous people whose territory is located in the southern interior of BC and north-central Washington. These people are also known as Okanagan people.
Okanagan is the anglicized version of “Suqnaqinx”.