Okanagan Nation Alliance deems grizzly bears at-risk and protected

Okanagan Nation Alliance deems grizzly bears at-risk and protected

Conservation Northwest / Jan 14, 2015 / First Nations, Grizzly Bears

By Joe Scott, International Conservation Director

2015 got off to a great start for Northwest grizzly bears with the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Chiefs Executive Council passing a resolution calling for protection and recovery of grizzlies, known as kiʔlawnaʔ in the nsyilxcen language. Interestingly, kiʔlawnaʔ is the root word for the town of Kelowna, British Columbia.

The ONA consists of the Okanagan Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, and the Lower and Upper Similkameen Indian Bands in British Columbia, and the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state.

Grizzly bear photographed near Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia North Cascades. Photo John-Ashley Price, October 13, 2015.

“Kiʔlawnaʔ (grizzly bear) has been an integral and critical part of the Syilx (Okanagan people) culture since time immemorial,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, ONA Chairman. “It’s presence in Syilx Territory is an indicator of the health of the Syilx land and people. We will work to build the supportive relationships needed to ensure that kiʔlawnaʔ will remain and thrive in it’s natural environment”.

This ONA resolution sets directives for their staff to build relationships and projects that support recovery of grizzly bears throughout Syilx Territory using best available information, practices and scientific knowledge in balance with traditional knowledge and protocols. The Chiefs Executive Council also called upon neighboring Nations as well as the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada, the State of Washington and the United States Government to implement prompt, cooperative actions for protection and recovery of Grizzly Bears in southern BC and northern United States.

The ONA resolution also notes that they will continue coordinating with Conservation Northwest and the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative to recover and protect bear populations in southwest British Columbia.

The U.S. federal government announced in August 2014 that it will soon initiate public planning efforts, lead by the National Park Service, for the recovery of grizzly bears in the North Cascades Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone, so the ONA resolution is particularly timely and reinforcing.

The ONA resolution is indicative of the growing recognition that trans-boundary, collaborative and prompt action is needed if we are to prevent grizzly bears from becoming extirpated in southwest British Columbia and Washington’s North Cascades – and if we want to bestow this important natural legacy to our grandchildren. 

The ONA Chiefs rightly point out that the grizzly bear is our “grade” on how well we are stewarding the environment and regional wildlife habitats. And their language is strikingly similar to that of the St’at’imc Chiefs’ Council in southwest British Columbia, which has passed a similar resolution.

Thank you, First Nations for your strong support of grizzly bears in southern British Columbia and northern Washington state.

Want to stay up to date on efforts to protect and and connect grizzly bear populations in southwest British Columbia and Washington’s North Cascades?  Sign up to receive Coast to Cascades e-updates here.

The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative, of which Conservation Northwest is a partner, seeks to protect and recover threatened grizzly bears and safeguard their habitat in southwest British Columbia through science-based planning and community involvement.