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Penticton Indian Band reaffirms commitment to protecting, keeping Sickle Point in natural state

Chief Greg Gabriel says the Penticton Indian Band is asking provincial and federal officials to return the undeveloped property to the PIB. Submitted

The Penticton Indian Band says it’s committed to keeping a slice of South Okanagan lakefront property in its natural state.

On Saturday, the band issued a press release, stating it does not consent to Sickle Point possibly being developed.

The 4.8-acre parcel of land along Skaha Lake has been in the news lately, as a grassroots conservation group and the regional district are trying to preserve it as wetlands.

Read more: Public overwhelmingly rejects borrowing request to buy Sickle Point

The property is being sold out of foreclosure, and conservationists want to protect the critical habitat for species-at-risk.

A $2.5-million deal was reached between the landowner, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and the group, but a regional request to borrow money to complete the transaction was rejected by the public.

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The RDOS said it would discuss its next steps at a Feb. 18 board meeting.

Meanwhile, the Penticton Indian Band says Sickle Point has been utilized by Indigenous people for hundreds of generations.

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In a press release, PIB councilor Timmothy Lezard said Sickle Point’s Nsyilxcen’s placename is Ncaqeq-iwltn (pronounced: n-suck-ul-kay-ul-tn).

“It means a place to land or park a canoe and was used by our people as a camp and resting area,” said Lezard.

The PIB says it’s continuing to meet with the RDOS, local stakeholders plus provincial and federal officials to reaffirm its position of no development at Sickle Point.

“For generations, the provincial and federal governments have allowed the sale and disposition of our lands and benefited from the development of our lands without meaningful consultation or consent from our community,” said PIB Chief Greg Gabriel.

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“We have never consented to the disposition of our unceded lands within Syilx Nation territory.”

Gabriel said the PIB met with B.C. environment minister George Heyman “to discuss the removal of Sickle Point as a fee-simple land and the return of this parcel to the Penticton Indian Band.

“PIB will protect and preserve (Sickle Point) in accordance with Syilx Nation principles and practice for the good of all, for all time as is our right and responsibility.”

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In related news, the PIB said it was pleased with Penticton city council’s decision to not hear a rezoning application regarding neighbourhood development above the Naramata Bench.

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A Surrey-based real estate company, Canadian Horizons, had proposed the subdivision, featuring single-family lots along 163 acres at 1050 Spiller Rd.

However, the proposal was opposed by area farmers, residents and the Penticton Indian Band, ultimately leading to council not proceeding with the first reading.

“We are pleased that Penticton city council voted not to approve the rezoning application brought forward by Canadian Horizons,” said Gabriel.

“The proposed development was located in an area that is important for our people and our elk and deer herds, which continue to dwindle due increasing use of rural Syilx Nation lands and resources.”

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