Image of a sockeye salmon in the Okanogan River in BC

Upper Columbia / Okanagan River 2021: “One River, Ethics Matter”

A multi-year ethics consultation on the Columbia River Treaty facilitated by the Ethics & Treaty Project.

Register for Nov 17 – 18


Making things right for future generations

8th annual conference on ethics – and the past and future of the Columbia River

Tribal host:  Okanagan Nation Alliance

Academic host:  University of British Columbia – Okanagan

“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 Okanagan Nation Alliance

“We live in a watershed moment in the history of the river. Never has there been such a sense of connectedness among the peoples of the river . . . .  It truly is a wonderful, wonderful moment.”

– Bishop (emeritus) William Skylstad, Columbia River Pastoral Letter. Portland 2015: One River, Ethics Matter.

The 8th annual “One River, Ethics Matter” conference will focus on the Indigenous-led work of restoring n’titxw (salmon) to the Okanagan River and the Upper Columbia. This gathering takes place even as globalization, the COVID pandemic, and the gathering climate crisis  make the interconnectedness of all our actions and our relations ever-more evident. This year’s conference focuses on providing both salmon and hope for our common future.

ONE RIVER: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) has been participating in “One River, Ethics Matter” since the first session in Spokane in 2014. These gatherings have been opportunities to feel the reality of ONE RIVER, the impacts of the Columbia River Treaty, and to share stories that are familiar to fellow tribes all along the Columbia from the estuary to the headwaters and other tributaries. As the Indigenous people of the Columbia Basin, we have all been salmon people, tied to the river as sustenance and as a sacred relation. We have survived the devastating impacts of colonization to our lands, resources, and peoples and continue to assert our rights to self-determination and to work for social justice.

STORY OF HOPE & SELF DETERMINATION: The Syilx Okanagan Nation has spearheaded a 20+ year effort to revitalize salmon in the Okanagan River, the last major tributary of the Columbia River that salmon can access below the dams that stopped all salmon migration upstream in the 1940s. The vital support of our US tribal relations heightened how important principles of collaboration and cooperation are in responding to the globalization of our planet and care of her resources. Together with our tribal allies across this imposed international boundary, the Syilx Okanagan Nation was able to save Okanagan sockeye salmon from near extinction to celebrated returns of up to 500,000 salmon annually. Even as threats due to climate change, urbanization, and resource extraction continue and must be addressed, this story has become a beacon of hope knowing the benefits of our collective work will long surpass all of our lives.

kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ BRINGING THE SALMON HOME: For more than 80 years, salmon have been blocked from returning to the Canadian portion of the upper Columbia River. Now, an Indigenous-led collaboration of the Syilx Okanagan Nation, Ktunaxa Nation, and Secwépemc Nation, together with the governments of Canada and British Columbia, is working to return salmon stocks to the full length of the Columbia River. On the U.S. side of the border major efforts also led by tribes are underway to restore salmon above Grand Coulee dam. We face challenges include habitat loss, overfishing, pollution, politics, climate change, and of course the dams. But for Indigenous Nations this work is not only a possibility—it is a sacred responsibility. We must take these opportunities now to move us forward, together, into a future that will sustain the people-to-be.

Planning Committee

Adrienne Vedan, Jenny Matechuk, John Wagner, Marni Turek, Pauline Terbasket, Tom Soeldner, John Osborn