By Kelsie Kilawna
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Trigger Warning: This article contains content about loss from wildfires that may be triggering. Kelsie Kilawna is a syilx reporter who’s covering wildfires that have spread through her community and homelands. Kelsie is committed to syilx storytelling protocol and trauma-informed reporting.
In August 2021 syilx People from all over the nation and territory came together to pray for the people, the land, and the animals, as wildfires grew closer and closer to the community of the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB).
Unfortunately, the community faced the loss of nine permanent residences, one dwelling, and two businesses. With those losses came great community mourning and grief. It has only been six months since the White Rock Lake Wildfire, as it became known, moved its way through the syilx territory. Because it has not been a full year, some of the community are still in their mourning ceremonies.
For that reason IndigiNews has chosen to refrain from reaching out to those directly affected.
When Pine Ridge Modular homes, a small business based in Burns Lake, heard of the distressing news that OKIB was in need of temporary housing, in an industry that is facing significant wait times, the company reached out to the community to offer two homes for immediate purchase.
Chief Byron Louis of the OKIB says in a press release on Tuesday that he and the rest of community leadership are happy to welcome their people home as they continue to rebuild.
The homes are fully insulated and ready for all four seasons.
They are being installed next week and with great excitement from the OKIB.
“On behalf of OKIB members and Council, I would like to welcome our Band members back to the reserve,” he says, “The return of the first of our Band members to their homes is a step towards a new beginning.”
“OKIB would like to remind people that a Go Fund Me fundraiser is underway for any Band members or members of the public who wish to donate to the recovery effort. While OKIB is accessing funding from available sources, there are countless expenses not covered and the Go Fund Me donations will assist the people who lost their homes,” shares the press release.
If you would like to support the wildfire recovery project, check out the Go Fund Me. Alternatively you can contact Jenelle Brewer, recovery manager at recoverymanager?okanagan.org to offer your donation or receive a tax receipt.
If you are a member of the nation and continue to be impacted by the loss or struggling with survivors guilt please know help is available. The OKIB Mental Health and Wellness team is available to support you at 250-540-7416.
Kelsie Kilawna is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter that works out of THE DISCOURSE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada