Okanagan Nation

axá iʔ sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxitət x̌l iʔ nqsil̓tət Family Declaration

axá iʔ sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxitət x̌l iʔ nqsil̓tət Family Declaration
tl̓ t̓ sxʷuys … way̓ iʔ k̓ʷul̓l … nixʷ iʔ lutí iʔ k̓ʷul̓l … x̌aʔx̌aʔəlx … əcpútaʔstm … kʷu yʕayʕát ctxət̓stim iʔ scəcmaláʔtət naʔł iʔ snəqsilxʷtət.

From time immemorial, our children now, those yet to be born, are sacred. We revere our children. We all care for our children and our families.

The development of the axá iʔ sccuntət iʔ tl x̌aʔxitət x̌l iʔ nqsil̓tət Family Declaration took six years to reach completion, with it being signed by the Elders, Language Speakers, and the Chief’s Executive Council on July 26, 2022, in Revelstoke, BC. The work took place in all the Nation’s communities, involved multiple groups, especially Elders and Language Speakers, and passed through many hands along this journey.

Overall, declarations are recognized internationally as a standard of Nationhood. This declaration is a written expression of aspects of sqilxwcawt (Syilx cultural ways of being) and captíkʷł knowledge that are critical to the health and wellbeing of the Nation’s families and our children. This document is deeply rooted in Syilx captikwl, language, and worldview, while providing a clear path for moving forward to self-determination. It lays out the principles and values that our people live by, and that we expect all guests and visitors to our territory to abide by when working with our families and our children.

This declaration can be used as the base for protocol agreements and memorandums of understanding between our Nation or a community and another government body. It’s principles and values can be used to draft Community wellness policies for social services staff. This important document can also be used as the foundation for a written expression of Syilx family laws.

Family Declaration (2022)


Chief Greg Gabriel

jingle dancer

Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration

axaʔ iʔ kʷu syilx iʔ kʷu ͝ sukʷnaqinx kʷu cnqilxʷcən ta nsyilxcən uɬ way t̕əsxʷuy uɬ ta mnimɬtət kə ck̕ɬqixʷstm uɬ kə ctiɬstm, uɬ niʕip kə ck’ʷulmstm iʔ nsyilxcən aʔ nqilxʷcntət.

We, the Syilx Okanagan Peoples have spoken our nsyilxcən language since time immemorial, and we are responsible for the protection, revitalization and advancement of our nsyilxcən language. – excerpt from the Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration

At the 2018 ONA Annual General Assembly, on July 18th at saʔtikn at the Manning Park Resort, the present Syilx Okanagan Nation Elders and member Chiefs endorsed the Iʔ Syilx iʔ sukʷnaqinx scqʷəlqʷiltət Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration. While the Council and Nation members signed as witnesses, drummers and singers provided spiritual significance to the signing with beautiful songs that filled the room already bursting with so much pride.

Over the last year, speakers have developed the Language Declaration as an expression of Syilx legal principles that stand as a valuable instrument to be able to advocate for the importance of our language. Our language gives us this right and responsibility to be here. Our Elders spoke in nsyilxcen to the importance of the signing of this historic Declaration. Elder and fluent language speaker Pauline Archacan also talked about our rights and the significance of the Declaration and how she was fully satisfied with the wording in the Declaration.

Speaking to the importance of the Declaration Chief Byron Louis stated, “That this is the most significant document I have ever signed.”

After the signing took place, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said “this is history, incredibly significant. This is an international standard of nationhood. Forty-five years ago, the majority of our people were fluent, sadly that’s not the case anymore. This Declaration is a public expression of intent to stay together. This Declaration contains our laws on how we care take our culture and everything that represents. Without the language it’s impossible to undertake these tasks. It’s at the core of our being, there’s no question. We’ve been encouraged by our Elders to revive our language and today we made this commitment.”

The work to develop this Declaration took a long time, this was a very significant day. We want to acknowledge all those who worked on this Declaration and through this work we honour our Elders and those who have kept our language alive.

Syilx Okanagan Language Declaration

elders walk

siwɬkʷ Water Declaration

“The Okanagan Nation has accepted the unique responsibility bestowed upon us by the Creator to serve for all time as protectors of the lands and waters in our territories, so that all living things return to us regenerated. When we take care of the land and water, the land and water takes care of us. This is our law.”

Syilx Water Declaration excerpt

In July 2014, the Okanagan Nation Alliance endorsed the Syilx Water Declaration that was put forth by the Natural Resources Council, which will be a living document. Syilx communities have always recognized and nurtured a strong connection towards siwɬkʷ (water).

We were placed in a sacred manner upon this earth and charged to care for and protect all of our relations within our homelands especially our most sacred relative, siwɬkʷ. These responsibilities were given to us by the Creator, kʷuləncútn and they have been upheld since the beginning of time by our ancestors. They now pass to us and our children through our grandmothers and grandfathers.

The Syilx Water Declaration serves as a living document on the Syilx relations and values to water. This document communicates the importance of water and responsibilities we have as Syilx people. The importance of water in Syilx communities and governance is related through captikwl and the natural laws. Syilx governance systems have always sustainably and respectfully managed water.

Water is recognized as an entity to be protected and shapes the norms of Syilx people. The natural laws of the land have been passed down through captikʷł. It is through captikʷł that the Syilx learn about their responsibilities to the water and land. The principles and responsibilities stated in the Syilx Water Declaration reflects the strong collective voice of the Syilx Nation and it is our responsibility to move forward and act for siwɬkʷ for everyone in the Okanagan for perpetuity.

Okanagan Nation Water Declaration (2014)

Sockeye Salmon swimming Upstream to their Spawning Grounds

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