It’s been in the works for a couple of years, but the process to transfer parcels of land near Summerland to the Penticton Indian Band is nearing completion.
Chief Jonathan Kruger confirmed the band has been negotiating with the Province of B.C. to exchange land around the Kaleden junction for an important area on Roddy Flats, outside Summerland.
“The junction was a trespass for many years and we worked out a deal where we got compensated for that,” said Kruger, noting the land had a high appraised value. “We made a deal for 158 acres of land and some monies that we haven’t received yet.”
Kruger said he is happy to see the trespass issue resolved over the junction lands, and hopes the province moves ahead to make the junction safer. The Roddy Flats land, he said, is important culturally as an area where an important food plant grows.
“We wanted to ensure those lands are protected, because those are some of the biggest areas for Speetlum (bitterroot). To have it protected under the band is going to be good for our members and also for our Okanagan Nation. This is a really good story for habitat, for cultural protection for our people, for our community and our nation,” said Kruger.
Speetlum is one of the four food chiefs for the Syilx, along with the black bear, salmon and Saskatoon berries.
“We have food ceremonies every year and Speetlum is one of our four food chiefs. It is one of our staple foods throughout the winter. It is really good for you,” said Kruger, who said it is hard to classify. “To me, it reminds me of a bitter potato. You mix it with berries and you mix it with meat. You dry it and you eat it throughout the year.”
The subject property is located about two kilometres west of the District of Summerland municipal boundary and three kilometres south of Faulder in Electoral Area ‘F’ in the area known as Roddy Flats. The surrounding area is comprised predominantly of both surveyed and un-surveyed Crown land, with some nearby rural residential development.
MLA Dan Ashton said he wasn’t involved directly with the process, but said it was his understanding the deal had been completed, acknowledging there had been concerns raised by local residents when they saw fencing going up, but didn’t know why.
“That is the biggest thing. As long as people are informed, decisions don’t usually cause much issue,” said Ashton.
Kruger said the province had previously agreed to protect the land under the provincial Heritage Act, but wanted to see the band have more control.
“It was protected years ago, and we appreciate the province and their Heritage Act, but we simply didn’t think that was acceptable,” said Kruger. “This is something good for the province, working together.
“In the past, we never did a land-use plan on what areas were important to the Syilx people. There is still a lot more work ahead of us for what lands we should be protecting for cultural and habitat protection.”
On Sept. 2, the government of Canada announced an agreement to transfer five parcels of land totalling approximately 45 acres to the Penticton Indian Band. The land will be transferred from CP to the government of Canada and then to the Penticton Indian Band corporation in trust for the Penticton Indian Band membership.