The Okanagan people, also spelled Okanogan, are a First Nations and Native American people whose traditional territory spans the Canada–US boundary in Washington state and British Columbia in the Okanagan Country region. They call themselves the Syilx (Salish pronunciation: [sjilx]), a term now widely used. They are part of the Interior Salish ethnological and linguistic grouping. The Okanagan are closely related to the Spokan, Sinixt, Nez Perce, Pend Oreille, Secwepemc and Nlaka'pamux peoples of the same Northwest Plateau region.
Okanagan family, c. 1918
|Regions with significant populations|
|Canada (British Columbia),|
United States (Washington)
|English, Okanagan (n̓səl̓xcin)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Colville, Sanpoil, Nespelem, Sinixt, Wenatchi, Entiat, Methow, Palus, Sinkiuse-Columbia, and the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph's band|
At the height of Okanagan culture, about 3000 years ago, it is estimated that 12,000 people lived in this valley and surrounding areas. The Okanagan people employed an adaptive strategy, moving within traditional areas throughout the year to fish, hunt, or collect food, while in the winter months, they lived in semi-permanent villages of kekulis, a type of pithouse.
When the Oregon Treaty partitioned the Pacific Northwest in 1846, the portion of the tribe remaining in what became Washington Territory reorganized under Chief Tonasket as a separate group from the majority of the Okanagan, whose communities remain in Canada. The Okanagan Tribal Alliance, however, incorporates the American branch of the Okanagan. The latter are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville, a multi-tribal government in Washington state.
The bounds of Okanagan territory are roughly the basin of Okanagan Lake and the Okanagan River, plus the basin of the Similkameen River to the west of the Okanagan valley, and some of the uppermost valley of the Nicola River. The various Okanagan communities in British Columbia and Washington form the Okanagan Nation Alliance, a border-spanning organization which includes American-side Okanogans resident in the Colville Indian Reservation, where the Okanagan people are sometimes known as Colvilles.
The today Upper Nicola Indian Band, an Okanagan group of the Nicola Valley, which was at the northwestern perimeter of Okanagan territory, are known in their dialect as the Spaxomin, and are joint members in a historic alliance with neighbouring communities of the Nlaka'pamux in the region known as the Nicola Country, which is named after the 19th-century chief who founded the alliance, Nicola. This alliance today is manifested in the Nicola Tribal Association.
- Okanagan Nation Alliance
- Westbank First Nation (Westbank)
- Lower Similkameen Indian Band (Keremeos)
- Upper Similkameen Indian Band (Keremeos)
- Osoyoos Indian Band
- Penticton Indian Band
- Okanagan Indian Band (Vernon)
- Upper Nicola Indian Band (Douglas Lake) - also part of the Nicola Tribal Association
- Confederated Tribes of the Colville
- Armstrong, Jeannette, and Lee Maracle, Okanagan Rights Committee; Delphine Derickson, Okanagan Indian Education Resource Society, We Get Our Living Like Milk from the Land, Theytus Books, 1994
- Boas, Franz (1917). Folk-tales of Salishan and Sahaptin tribes. Published for the American Folk-Lore Society by G.E. Stechert & Co.Available online through the Washington State Library's Classics in Washington History collection Includes: Okanagon tales by James A. Teit and Okanagon tales by Marian K. Gould.
- Carstens, Peter. The Queen's People: A Study of Hegemony, Coercion, and Accommodation Among the Okanagan of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8020-5893-0
- Robinson, Harry, and Wendy C. Wickwire. Nature Power: In the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1992. ISBN 1-55054-060-2
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Okanagan people.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Okinagan.|
- Map of Okanagan territory
- Okanagan Tribal Alliance Homepage (Syilx.org)
- The bear woman: Okanagan legend about a woman kidnapped by a grizzly bear
- Dirty boy: Okanagan legend about a woman who married the sun