This ceremonial release of 10,000 Okanagan Sockeye fry takes place by members of the Syilx/Okanagan Nation and over 430 students from local schools so that kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ (cause to come back) will continue. These fry have been raised as part of Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) Fish in Schools Program along with fry from the hatchery. ntyitix (salmon) is central to the Syilx/Okanagan peoples creation stories and through the captikwl (oral history), passed down through generations; it is our responsibility to be stewards of our lands and waters. These ceremonies with our language, songs and prayers are an integral part of the work that we continue, to ensure our efforts to revitalize our culture. For thousands of years these ceremonies and customs have been brought forward for our children.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) operates a state-of-the-art $8 million sockeye salmon hatchery, just outside Penticton, in southern British Columbia, Canada.
“We are building a state-of-the-art program for sockeye enhancement,” says Richard Bussanich (Masters in Marine Sciences from the University of Guelph). The Okanagan Nation Alliance constructed the 25,000 square foot gravity-fed hatchery as a key part of the Okanagan Sockeye Reintroduction Plan. It’s a 12-year trans border project led by the ONA, that combines water management, habitat restoration, dam passages and fish enhancement.
It was new to DFO that a First Nations group would own a sockeye hatchery of this size and are doing it for enhancement purposes. We’re not raising fish to sell,” notes Lawrence. “And it’s not costing Canadians a cent,” adds Bussanich. Funds for the hatchery have come entirely from the Public Utility Departments of Grant and Chelan Counties, in Washington State, as part of their Columbia River dam mitigation commitments.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance represents eight “Syilx” or “Okanagan” communities around the Okanagan Basin, including the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State, on stewardship issues.