Compromise over Osoyoos-area parks

Osoyoos Indian Band will manage both Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls provincial parks.

Chief Clarence Louie will be running in the upcoming Osoyoos Indian Band elections.

Chief Clarence Louie will be running in the upcoming Osoyoos Indian Band elections.

For Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band a deal that has the band taking over management of two provincial parks is very much a compromise.

Human remains were found early last year at Haynes Point Provincial Park, which stretches out on a long isthmus, nearly dividing the southern basin of Osoyoos Lake. The park was closed to the public last fall after archeological investigations determined the remains were about 1,200 years old.

“When the ancestral remains were found, they were the oldest ever in our area,” said Louie, noting that a rare shell midden had also been found in the area, dating back 4,000 years.

Rather than forcing closure of the park entirely, the province and the OIB have agreed that both Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls provincial parks will be managed by the OIB.

“Our thoughts went from shutting the whole place down to reaching a compromise of having the park open but under our management as opposed to the way it has been these last many, many decades,” said Louie, noting that as a proven historical site, the OIB has strongest claim to the area. “If you want us to compromise, we expect you to compromise. We want to be back on that site again.”

Louie said Okanagan Falls provincial park was included in the compromise deal, because that area was expropriated from the band early in 20th century. That was OIB reserve No. 2, he explained, until the government took it away in 1915 to give the land to settlers.

“They said the Indians aren’t doing anything with the land, we need it. They took away our most prized fishing grounds,” said Louie.

The province and the OIB have also agreed to officially rename the two parks and McIntyre Bluff, another important OIB archaeological and cultural heritage site, to their traditional nsyilxcen (Okanagan language) place names.

“Our language speakers are happy the sites are going to go back to their original names that stood for thousands of years,” said Louie. “It brought a tear to the eye for some of them.”

Changing the names of the culturally-significant places won’t change their use, according to Louie.

“They’re seasonal campgrounds. If you camped there last year, or the last five years in a row, you shouldn’t change anything.”

Given their years of experience operating similar camping operations at their resort in Osoyoos, the  province is confident the OIB is capable of managing both parks according to a Ministry of the Environment spokesperson explaining that it also provides an opportunity for OIB to be more involved in park management and operations that support long-term protection of important cultural and archeological values.