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News Release: BC Hydro Disregards Title & Rights


BC Hyrdo fails to get Free, Prior and Informed Consent from Splatsin on the decommission of the Wilsey Dam; suggests another Nation has Title & Rights to area surrounding Wilsey Dam

Secwepemcúl’ecw (Secwepemc Territory)  – Splatsin officials are frustrated following an announcement from BC Hydro on September 20th to decommission the Wilsey Dam located on the Shuswap River near Lumby, B.C. Splatsin and the Indigenous bands of the Pespesellkwe te Secwépemc (Adams Lake, Little Shuswap Lake, and Neskonlith) say that BC Hydro denied their offer to acquire the dam, then independently made the decision to decommission the dam without the free, prior, and informed consent of the bands – which contradicts BC Hydro’s mandate to incorporate UNDRIP (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) into its business practices.

The decision by BC Hydro to decommission the dam which Secwépemc Nation Tribal Chief and Splatsin Kukpi7 Wayne Christian says is a ‘complete disregard of BC Hydro’s mandate and our title and rights.’

“We [Splatsin and Pespesellkwe te Secwepemc] made an offer to BC Hydro to acquire the dam and turn it into a run-of-the-river system to recover the salmon population and generate power and economic opportunities at the same time,” says Christian.

This offer was promptly denied under the premise that there are other indigenous nations with whom BC Hydro has obligations to uphold. However, communication from BC Hydro to Splatsin clearly acknowledges that the Wilsey Dam falls within the core territory of Splatsin and the Secwépemc Nation, and therefore, no other nations needed to be consulted.

Since learning of the decision to decommission the dam, Splatsin has learned that the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) and the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) were consulted during the process.

“For BC Hydro to suggest and acknowledge that another nation, ONA or its member band OKIB, have title and rights to an area within Splatsin’s core area and within the Secwépemc Nation is unacceptable,” says Christian.

The Splatsin name for Shuswap Falls as Swa7will and the English name of the area as Shuswap Falls as well as, the English name for the river as Shuswap River, demonstrate that this area is in Secwepemcúĺecw.

“We [Splatsin] have historical village sites and fishing camps that formed a part of our seasonal rounds that we still use today on the banks of the Shuswap River,” says Christian. “Evidence shows that these sites are thousands of years old. We are the direct descendants of the original Secwepemc inhabitants of this area. Members of Splatsin lived in this area in the 1800s with direct descendants still living today.”

Christian did add, however, that the Shuswap Falls were considered a shared area between the Okanagan Indian Band and the Secwépemc Peoples.

Splatsin oral history demonstrates an agreement made with the Okanagan Indian Band regarding the shared use of Shuswap Falls. This agreement was for access to the Shuswap River fishery, as the Okanagan Fishery was very limited and did not support Salmon. The agreement between the two bands was made prior to the construction of the Wilsey Dam and outlined that:

  • The Okanagan Indian Band was allowed access to the Salmon fishery above the falls all the way to and including Sugar Lake.
  • The access to the salmon fishery was based on kinship ties between the two communities.
  • Splatsin would fish all the way up the river to the falls during the salmon run.
  • Splatsin maintained the territory beyond Shuswap Falls for various sustenance and cultural purposes including fishing.

When the dam was built, it forced the Okanagan to abandon their fishing grounds above the dam and fish alongside the Secwépemc below the falls.

Splatsin has strong strength of claim to Shuswap Falls and the Shuswap River and this is shown not only by the fact that these places are named after the Secwépemc (Shuswap) Nation Peoples.

Since 1929 when the Wilsey Dam was built, it has caused direct and indirect impacts to the surrounding environment and fishing villages ‘more than 7,000 years old’ according to Splatsin’s oral histories. Specifically, the dam has resulted in a sharply declining salmon population that uses the area as critical spawning and nursery waters.

The Splatsin people reside on reserve lands adjacent to the City of Enderby to the south and across the Shuswap River to the east, within the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc, the largest Interior Salish-speaking First Nation in Canada. Their traditional territory stretches from the B.C./Alberta border near the Yellowhead Pass to the plateau west of the Fraser River, southeast to the Arrow Lakes, and the upper reaches of the Columbia River encompassing 180,000 square kilometres, 32 communities, and a population of 15,000 people. The Splatsin and Secwépemc has total jurisdiction and title to all of their people, lands, and resources and have not surrendered, ceded, or released them to the government.

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Media Contact:

Dudley Coulter, Director of Communications
o (250) 838-6496 ext. 705
c (250) 306-1541
e [email protected]n.ca

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