Dyawen Louis, Nicola Terbasket, Reiley Terbasket and Madison Terbasket-Winser represented Similkameen Elementary Secondary School and and the Lower Similkameen Indian Band as the Youth Water Leaders from B.C. as part of a nation wide youth water project.
The students have been looking at water issues in the community, as part of an overall project involving a year long, national water conservation project funded by the Canadian Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources titled “Our Water, Our Future.”
The school based project, which partnered with the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and the Okanagan Nation Alliance, hosted one of four week long workshops during the week of November 25 – 28. The four workshops represented Canada’s watersheds – the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Hudson’s Bay.
The students studied the Similkameen River, developing a power point presentation titled “Saving Similkameen Sensibly”, which they shared with SESS grade nine classes on April 29.
The student’s study focussed on the proposed Fortis dam near Princeton and also the effects of water quality from mining and other developmental sources.
The students’ presentation described water issues pertinent to the Similkameen valley, particularly emphasizing the operation and negative effects of large scale mining operations upstream of Keremeos over the past century.
The report ended with a list of proactive things individuals could do to sustain the Similkameen ecosystem, including such interesting suggestions as constructing an outhouse in order to reduce the amount of water used in toilet flushings, as well as taking a more holistic approach to building dams by having them created naturally by beavers.
The youth water leaders studied and created their report with the assistance of the Okanagan Nation’s Jeremy Crow and Kathy Holland.
“We set up the program in support of the youth in the Nation,” Crow said, “our youth are being educated as we try to build a water strategy.”
The student audience also participated in an exercise designed to show how upstream development can negatively affect downstream use. The audience was broken into a number of groups and given pieces of paper representing a portion of the Similkameen River, and asked to “develop” them by making cultural additions like houses, farms, shopping malls, etc.
The pieces were then joined together to form the river, and potatoes distributed to represent environmental damage caused by the development, potatoes accumulating towards the downstream portion of the river.
Similkameen’s youth water leaders have one more workshop in the four part series, taking place in Shoal Lake on the Manitoba – Ontario border during the week of May 5-10.