Splatsin First Nation decries BC Hydro's closure of Wilsey Dam

Splatsin slams dam closure

The Splatsin First Nation is frustrated following an announcement from BC Hydro earlier this week that the utility will decommission the Wilsey Dam on the Shuswap River, near Lumby.

Secwépemc Nation Tribal Chief and Splatsin Kukpi7 Wayne Christian slammed the Crown corporation Thursday for a "complete disregard of BC Hydro’s mandate and our title and rights."

In a news release, he said BC Hydro rejected an offer from the Splatsin to acquire the dam.

“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,” said Christian.

He said BC Hydro's decision to decommission the dam "contradicts BC Hydro’s mandate to incorporate UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its business practices."

Splatsin said their offer was rejected because "under the premise that there are other Indigenous nations with whom BC Hydro has obligations to uphold."

That would be the Okanagan Nation Alliance, which commended the decision to dismantle the dam when it was announced earlier this week. The closure will allow salmon access to historical spawning habitat, BC Hydro said Monday.

Splatsin is claiming that the Wilsey Dam falls within the core territory of Splatsin and the Secwépemc Nation, so the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Okanagan Indian Band should not have have been involved.

“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,” said Christian.

“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.

The Splatsin First Nation says oral history demonstrates an agreement made with the Okanagan Indian Band regarding the shared use of Shuswap Falls that predates the construction of the Wilsey Dam in an effort to share the salmon fishery on the river.

But when the dam was built, it forced the Okanagan Indian Band 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," the First Nation said Thursday.

The Splatsin reside on reserve lands adjacent to the City of Enderby to the south and across the Shuswap River to the east.

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