The Osoyoos Indian Band last weekend discovered racist slurs and swear words left on historical pictographs. (Okanagan Indian Band)

The Osoyoos Indian Band last weekend discovered racist slurs and swear words left on historical pictographs. (Okanagan Indian Band)

Osoyoos Indian Band chief proposes prison time for racist vandals

“They want people to get upset, and angry, and saddened… That’s the reaction racists want, isn’t it?”

Chain link fences with razor wire, trail cams, and more patrols are being considered by Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) council as a way to protect sacred sites from further vandalism.

On Wednesday OIB Chief Clarence Louie voiced his disapproval of a recent act of vandalism which left racist slurs and swear words on pictographs of both historical and spiritual significance to the Okanagan Nation.

An OIB member discovered the vandalism last weekend, and news of the crime has has since rapidly spread.

Louie said his reaction to the crime, one of “ongoing, systemic racism,” was one that the vandals would likely have wanted.

“They (vandals) want people to get upset, and angry, and saddened… That’s the reaction racists want, isn’t it? I think that’s what they want. I’m not a psychologist but why do people go around, they hide, they don’t do it in public. They go in and damage people’s property. Why do they do that? Because they want a reaction, I assume,” said Louie.

Significance of the pictographs

Pictographs and rock art, Louie explained, can be found throughout the Okanagan and tribal territory in the U.S. and Canada.

Historically, pictographs have been used as a way to convey a message or an idea over countless centuries.

“They’re of cultural significance, spiritual significance, historical significance, they’re not normal — I guess some people call them art. Some of the imagery there is not about art, it’s about spirituality,” said Louie.

“Of course no one knows who the artist was, no one knows when they were painted, but they’re significant. Some images you can guess what they are, but some are abstract, some are spiritual.”

Repairing the damage

Since discovering the graffiti, OIB Chief and Council has been planning ways to move forward and further protect these sacred areas.

Recently Louie has spoken with experts in B.C. and Alberta to specialize in removing vandalism from rocks. Some say there are products that may be able to remove the paint.

Most of the swear words, Louie explained, were not on the pictographs themselves, and this will be easier to deal with. However paint put directly on the rock paintings will be more of an issue.

The chief is hopeful they will be able to restore the paintings to their original state.

“I’m glad to hear; the person I talked to on the phone yesterday from Alberta said there is stuff that can get paint off of paint, and still leave the original rock painting there,” he said.

Accountability

Figuring out who might have done this is extremely hard without witnesses, explained Louie. He added it’s hard to charge someone if they don’t confess to their crimes.

Louie said this isn’t the first time someone has ripped off, stolen from, or vandalized their land.

“Whenever this has happened before, again there’s been no witnesses, there’s not much of an investigation the cops can do because who they talk to? All that’s left behind is the swear words.

Rather than ‘justice’, a term the chief called ‘soft’ and non-specific, Louie proposed a five-year prison sentence for the those responsible.

“I was asked, well do you want justice to whoever did this? I said no, I don’t want justice to whoever did this criminal activity, I want them locked up in jail for at least five years,” said Louie.

He said he is baffled by how many trespass on their reserves. Even as Louie and others were leaving the historical site on the weekend, they noticed several cyclists biking through their reserve.

The individual responsible, Louie explained, broke several laws, beginning when they trespassed on OIB land, passing by several ‘no trespassing’ signs.

“I’m sure every res (reservation) has this problem, where non-natives think Indian reserves are public land and they can just drive anywhere they want… our reserve roads are not public roads, they’re like somebody’s private driveway, it’s just that they’re a lot longer, that’s the only difference,” said Louie.

Louie said it’s a mindset within the public that needs to change. He said their signs which read ‘private property’ and ‘no trespassing’ should garner just as much respect and significance as they do anywhere else.

“That’s (vandalism) just part of ongoing racism, systemic racism that people don’t even notice. It’s been there so long.”

@PentictonNews
editor@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Nov. 20 WestJet flight 3171 has been identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control with a COVID case aboard. (Black Press file photo)
Fifth COVID-19 exposure reported on flight at Comox airport

Another exposure risk from flight originating in Calgary

The School District 70 administration office in Port Alberni. AV NEWS FILE PHOTO
Four Alberni schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

Exposures occurred between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25 depending on the school

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160 Comox, B.C. Poppy Chairman, Kent Guilford presenting cheques to the following organizations in support of their venues: (top left) The Sea Cadet Corps who assisted in last year’s Poppy campaign. (Top right) CFB Comox, Military Family Resource Center, Kim Hetherington, executive director MFRC. Bottom, The Views at St Joseph’s, Jessica Aldred, Health Care Foundation, Michael Aikins, senior operations leader. We wish to Thank All those who supported last year’s Poppy Campaign and we hope we will have your continued support this year. Thank you all.
Comox Valley gives back

Spotlight on some of the groups, businesses and individuals who make the Comox Valley great

Union Bay voters chose a new direction Saturday. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Union Bay voters opt for governance change

More than seventy per cent support dissolving UBID to roll services into regional district

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism widespread

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

Christmas lights are something that people can do to celebrate the season that are not impacted by COVID-19. (file photo)
Editorial: Holidays will be different this year

This Christmas is going to be very different for our communities on… Continue reading

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

Most Read