With First Nation archeological sites being identified in the Central Okanagan, there is now an agreement in place to protect those sites, when found in regional parks.
The Central Okanagan Regional District (RDCO) and Westbank First Nation (WFN) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Sites within regional parks.
The MOU is the result of an initiative last fall that brought the regional board, WFN council as well as staff from both organizations together for a community to community forum. It involved a facilitated field and site visit followed by presentations from experts in the field of cultural site conservation and protection.
The memorandum recognizes that the land throughout the Central Okanagan has been used by the syilx Okanagan People since time immemorial, creating a history that’s synonymous with the land. It highlights the means to allow future development projects within regional parks, while safeguarding the shared goals of protection, conservation and education of First Nation cultural sites within the parks.
A number of historical First Nation archeological sites have been identified within Central Okanagan regional parks while CORD and the WFN are co-managing Black Mountain/sntsk‘il’ntən Regional Park and have been collaborating on several cultural initiatives: a bi-lingual trail naming program and cultural interpretive signage in many regional parks.
“The cooperative efforts of the RDCO to preserve and educate about these culturally sensitive areas is important and valued,” said WFN Chief Roxanne Lindley. “The history and culture of the syilx Okanagan people is strongly connected to the land, as it represents a link to our past.”
RDCO Chair Gail Given added: “It’s fitting that during a week that celebrated National Aboriginal Day, we come together, committing all our efforts and resources to protect culturally significant sites in our regional parks. These historical sites, some known and those yet to be discovered have deep meaning for the Westbank First Nation and syilx Okanagan people. This agreement sets out the process and practice that will identify and protect them for all future generations in the Central Okanagan.”
The regional district received almost $5,000 from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, UBCM and First Nations Summit Community to Community Forum program to host the board-council event last October.