February: Community rallies around Okanagan Indian Band elders after fire destroys home

Top story from February 2022

Okanagan Indian Band elders Wilma and James Paul lost their home to a fire on Feb. 22, 2022. (GoFundMe photo)

Okanagan Indian Band elders Wilma and James Paul lost their home to a fire on Feb. 22, 2022. (GoFundMe photo)

When an Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) family lost their home and possessions in a fire in February, the community rallied around them.

OKIB elders Wilma and James Paul and their nephew lost everything – including family artifacts and historical relics – to the Feb. 22 blaze. The family did not have insurance, according to the OKIB.

“Wilma and Jimmy worked hard to build their home, starting in 1986. Since then, they spent countless hours digging boulders and removing tree stumps to create green space around their home and eventually added a garden over time. Jimmy tinkered around the yard daily, and Wilma would spend her time cooking in the kitchen to feed the friends and family that would visit them. Anyone that visited their home, knew it was a welcoming home, but also knew how amazing her bannock was,” a spokesperson for the OKIB said at the time.

A GoFundMe was launched and more than $10,000 was raised to help the family.

“After all that our members and indeed everyone have gone through over the past few years, this is a major tragedy for the community,” said OKIB Chief Byron Louis, back in February.

“Wildfire, the pandemic, possible flooding, and now a family is beset by this tragic event. In true Syilx spirit, I know that many members, the extended community, and the business community at large will want to help out.”

And, in that spirit, the community heard the call and came to the aid and support of Wilma and James Paul.

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