The chief and council of the Okanagan Indian Band are pleased to announce that the first three of nine band members have been selected to attend training in Texas to assist in disposing unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) from OKIB lands.
“While Canadians prepare to celebrate the end of WW2, relics of that era still litter our lands, rendering them useless,” said Chief Byron Louis, “during a clean-up last year, technicians found live mortars which were over 70 years old.”
Since the Boer War in 1906, the Department of National Defense (DND) used OKIB range land at Madeline Lake (24 km northwest of Vernon) and Goose Lake to train soldiers in firing live mortars, grenades and other munitions including white phosphorous.
“They would fire the mortars from one range to the other,” said Chief Louis, “That’s over 12 km and poor aim by soldiers in training saw much of our land surrounding the ranges also polluted.”
The recent agreement between the OKIB and DND will see a total of 10 OKIB members trained to become UXO Level 1 Techs over the next three years.
Chief Louis and the council thank the Department of National Defence for providing the funding to train members and said he is hopeful the positive relationship can continue.
“The clean-up effort will take time and an ongoing commitment by our partners in Ottawa,” said Chief Louis, “I’m proud of the members who came forward to be trained in this vital role. Their efforts will provide an opportunity for our future generations to enjoy our land safely.”