Groups host Sustaining Our Headwaters Forum

The ONA and Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) hosted the forum on April 19, at the Westbridge Community Hall.

Globally, March 2016 has proven to be the hottest month on record. There is no sign of changing weather predictions in the Interior of British Columbia, with the past week providing multiple record-breaking heat waves, and initiating premature ecological cycles and snow pack melts.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Natural Resources work notes that these mounting water challenges in the Okanagan and Columbia River basin cannot be addressed by any single entity, but demand that the diversity of perspectives and values on water be coordinated to create more resilient and dynamic responses to water management.

In response to this, the ONA and Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) hosted the Sustaining Our Headwaters Forum on April 19, at the Westbridge Community Hall. At the core of the forum was a shared concern for how water is managed and recognized in the region and how we might move towards effective partnerships and working relationships to find solutions to a better water future in the region.

Over 65 people were in attendance, and included Okanagan Nation Band councillors, traditional knowledge keepers, RDKB representatives, along with regional water leaders (RDKB), youth and other concerned citizens.

In the morning, Okanagan Nation led with presentations by Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Dr. Marlowe Sam, Sheri Stelkia and Sarah Alexis provided the opportunity for participants to gain a deeper understanding of Syilx perspectives on water and watersheds, and the way forward through reciprocal partnerships. This was followed by a technical presentation of the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan by Graham Watt, offering a deeper understanding of some of the innovative ways RDKB is taking on water management in the region.

Armstrong and Sam provided an in-depth Syilx perspective on the relationship and responsibility to water, and particularly headwaters, acknowledging “[water] as the most powerful of all things giving life—as much respect as part of the acknowledgement of the creation/creator, it is the physical manifestation of creation/creator as the life force of the land.”

Watt presented on the development and current movements within the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, stating that “this [forum] is part of the collaborative dialogue that was specified within the plan…how we do enact this is based on working together, doing things that are tangible, real and are really good learning for us, to help us learn together.”

The afternoon session provided a unique opportunity for exploratory dialogue and networking between water leaders on the issues related to headwater stewardship in the region.

The forum was co-sponsored by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

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