The first article I share illustrates Enowkinwixw, providing you with a description of the consensus-building decision-making process/model and the origin stories which provide the foundation of everything for this Nation.  To even understand Enowkinwixw fully, you need to understand the Sylix people, their history, language, stories, place.  I share so that one can grasp the deepness and richness of this knowing and how it is embedded in everything they do.

Syilx Cultural Framework

The Syilx people have passed down their cultural way of knowing from one generation to the next, orally through storytelling. When we tell Chaptikwl, our stories”, we breathe life into the ember that is waiting to come alive again. When we talk about how we are going to reclaim and restore the well-being of our communities, we are breathing life into our words and into our actions and into the people. This is a regenerating experience that creates fluid dynamic movement and begins to address the years of oppression when the colonial governments attempted to silence our stories, literally to strip us of the knowledge of our ancestors.

The Syilx (Okanagan) cultural framework is built on the foundation of Syilx cultural ways of knowing and of being and is drawn from a Chaptikwl called “How Food was Given.” In this story, Kul’nchut’n (creator) visited the Tmixw (including but not limited to the people, animal plants, air and water). Kul’nchut’n (creator) sent Senklip (coyote) to prepare for the future of the Stelsqilxw (people-to-be). Kul’nchut’n told the Tmixw that people were coming.

The four (4) Chiefs: Skemxist (Black Bear) Siya (Saskatoon Berry), Spitlem (Bitter Root), Ntyxtix (King Salmon) then came together and made a plan for how to feed Stelsqilxw (people to be). The story then tells how the differing perspectives of the four chiefs were brought together to inform the discussion, the problem solving, the decision making and the action plan.

The Chaptikwl illustrates the Enowkinwixw process, the cultural practice or discipline that describes how to plan, solve problems, make decisions, resolve conflicts and/or develop an action plan. It brings people together to dialogue on specific issues. The practice welcomes, encourages and supports the expression of differing perspectives that, at times, may be in opposition to each other. The practice of Enowkinwixw embraces the dynamic tension that emerges and uses it to develop a collective understanding or to shape a shared approach to an issue or concern. This process has been described as a “mind meld” (Okanagan Nation Response Team 2007 Booster Training Session).

Enowkinwixw is a consensus-based practice developed on the principles of respect, trust and inclusion. The following principles/actions are embedded within the process.

  • Consensus
  • Establishment of Common Ground
  • Protocols for discussion
  • Full participation
  • Commitment to see the process to its end, regardless of the time involved
  • Differing perspectives (Siya, Spitlem, Skemxist, Ntyxtix) that have a defined place: Innovators, Traditional, Action, and Relationships

The process is complete when an action and implementation plan incorporating all views is in place.


Differing Perspectives

“How Food was Given” is a teaching that illustrates how the Okanagan/Syilx community can come together and make decisions about how to take care of future generations, especially in relation to their well-being. It lends itself very well to providing a framework for, and an understanding of, the four main components of our health plan.

The Four Food Chiefs are described as having the following attributes (please note this list is not meant to be exhaustive.)

Siya (Saskatoon Berry)

Chief of all things growing above Land

Youth Innovation/Creative

We CAN do it No Barriers Think BIG Creative

Spitlem (Bitterroot)

Chief of all Roots

Female Relationships

Interconnectedness Nurturing

Skemxist (Black Bear)

Chief of all 4 legged Animals

Elder Tradition

Culture Contemplation/Thinking

Ntyxtix (King Salmon)

Chief of all that is in the Water

Male Action

Get it done Timely
Efficient Planning

1Chief Siya (Saskatoon Berry) embodies the spirit of creative energy, vision and innovation that can be associated with Youth. In this section of our health plan we provide those components that relate to the Nation’s vision and the innovation associated with the use of the Syilx Cultural Framework to assist in the understanding of the health plan.

2.  Chief Spitlem (Bitter Root) describes relationships, and the interconnectedness among Tmixw including but not limited to the people, the animals, the plants, the land, the air and the water. This provides the “context” in which individuals, families and communities endeavor to live in harmony with each other, and with their relatives - the animals, the plants and the land. This section of our plan provides a description of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) including its structurecapacity and existing programs, and profiles of the seven Okanagan member Bands and the Wellness Committee. The need for the health plan and the phases of the health plan are also described.

3.  Chief Skemxist (Black Bear) represents the traditions and cultural practices, the concept of reflection and contemplation on “what is” informed by an understanding of the past and how

that is connected to the future. It is this understanding that then shapes development of protocols. In this section of the health plan, the environmental context, the analysis of dataresearch, key findings and the establishment of priorities are the focus.

4. Chief Ntyxtix (King Salmon) exemplifies the process of preparing (readiness), determining the objective (aim), and then taking action (act). In this section, the Findings, Action Plan and the Conclusions are presented.

The concepts of individual, family, community, land (Armstrong, J. 2000-Let us begin with courage) are defined thus:

Each individual person is singularly gifted, each person actualizes full human potential only as a result of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being – those four aspects of existence are always contingent on external things. Each individual is a single facet of a trans- generational organism known as family.”

“Through this organism flows the powerful lifeblood of cultural transference designed to secure the best probability of well-being for each of the generations. Family systems are the foundation of a long-term living network called community.”
“In its various configurations this network spreads its life force over centuries and across physical space; it uses its collective knowledge to secure the well-being of all by the short- and long-term choices made via its collective process. A community is the living process that interacts with the vast and ancient body of intricately connected patterns in perfect unison called the land.”

“Land sustains all life and must be protected from depletion in order to insure its continued good health and ability to provide sustenance over generations.”

All of these Syilx concepts and framework are integrated in the Well-being of the Syilx.