Through practising traditional syilx laws, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band will protect the territory’s water and tmixʷ
BY AARON HEMENS, LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE REPORTER ● OKANAGAN ● MAY 5, 2022
nʔaysnúlaʔxʷ, (The Ashnola Corridor), located in the Similkameen Valley in syilx territory was declared as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area by the sməlqmíx on April 28, enabling the Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) to protect and manage the area while continuing to uphold sməlqmíx/syilx laws and teachings.
ʔaysnúlaʔxʷ, (Ashnola River), is a tributary river of the Similkameen River, with the latter being a 197 km-long waterway that flows through the valley. kalʔlupaqn Keith Crow, the chief of LSIB, said he’s concerned about the Similkameen River, and says it’s endangered. He cited mining contamination, forestry issues and climate change as significant risk factors.
“We really believe that we need to start protecting these tributaries. Because if you look at the broader scale of the water, the Similkameen feeds into the Okanagan system, which feeds into the Columbia,” said Crow.
“It all has to work together. And if we lose the Similkameen, which is the lifeblood of our valley, if we lose that, we lose our identity. We lose who we are.”
Conserving and managing the nʔaysnúlaʔxʷ snxaʔcnitkʷ (Ashnola Watershed), that the ʔaysnúlaʔxʷ runs through, Crow said, is a small piece of a bigger puzzle of helping to protect the siwɬkʷ (water) and tmixʷ (all living things) in the region.
“I’m looking forward to the education and awareness to everybody that we do take our responsibility seriously, and this is going to be our stance,” he said.
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