Political Shenanigans

Who owns the land? Coyotes, I think. Still, issues of human land use remain politically troubled. The area in the midground of this picture, for example, is part of an area of land originally held in common by North Okanagan Settlers and the Okanagan Indian Band. It is called The Commonage. Its history dates back to 1877:

Vernon commonage viewA View of the Commonage

The water is primary effluent from the Vernon Sewage Treatment Plant. Nice and green!

In 1877, six years after Canada became a part of the Dominion of Canada, the Commonage must have seemed a model of land partnership, and for a dozen years it was grazed in common, with the provision that it would revert to Indian Reserve if no further common usage could be found. In 1889, however, the Canadian government removed it from the Reserve system, under pressure from ranchers. It has been a subject of a land claim by the Syeelhwh Nation ever since. In 2001, the Government of British Columbia promised that the issue would be resolved, so it is a surprise to see the issue still alive today, with little regard for its legal status. For instance, in June, residents vowed to prevent a subdivision in what they termed an environmentally sensitive part of the Commonage. After that, in September, Vernon City Council explained that the area was in the official community plan, and thus had full protection of environmentally sensitive areas. In October, with a civic election in process, discussion again concerns land use in outlying areas. Talk is of a dysfunctional breakdown with the neighbours we need (The Municipality of Coldstream, effectively an extension of Vernon’s residential neighbourhoods), of referring to the Official Community Plan, and of planned sustainable change. There’s no mention of the Syeelhwh, and that old agreement that the land is held in common. But it is. As representatives, ultimately, of the Queen, Canadian governments, including the City of Vernon, look after it for the Syeelhwh, too, just as the Queen does, until it can give it to them or work out a means to share it. The Queen has parliaments to effect Her business. They are places where people sit down and talk. It’s commonplace to say that the time for talking is over and the time for action is long since due. In this case, though, it’s imperative to be crystal clear: the talking hasn’t even started. It’s talk that is the action we need.

Categories: Land, Other People

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