The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) has announced it has reached an agreement to purchase 2,310 acres of land — the O’Keefe Range.
For a price of $26.8 million, OKIB chief and council settled on the purchase agreement, however, in January 2022, the Okanagan Indian Band community will vote on whether they should proceed with the purchase.
“I believe it is our duty to return this land to the original owners,” said Chief Byron Louis.
“The land is adjacent to our border and it will be sold to someone. Opportunities to expand the reserve do not come around often and we are in a good position to act. For posterity, we need to add these 2,310 acres back to the reserve.”
Located between OKIB IR#1 and the city of Vernon, the land is made of 20 separate parcels and some of it has already been approved for development in Vernon’s Community Plan.
The band says there are two possible ways that it will be able to afford the $26.8-million purchase:
Option A: Get the federal government to pay for the land through a ‘Colonial claim.’
“Get Canada to make a down-payment on the Colonial claim and purchase this land for OKIB. This acreage encompasses part of the land that makes up the Colonial Claim. While OKIB and Canada are getting closer to final settlement, the timing of that is still uncertain. With the final settlement set to be much higher than the purchase price, it makes perfect sense for Canada to ensure we don’t lose the opportunity to obtain this land parcel while it is still available. This parcel represents the largest tract of land close to or adjacent to the reserve that OKIB has the opportunity to obtain,” OKIB staff wrote in a report.
Option B: Finance the purchase with a commercial bank.
“Finance the purchase of the land with a commercial bank and then quickly develop a portion of it to pay the costs of purchasing it. This option is not as ideal as it means paying interest to the bank, taking away funds that could be spent on programs and services,” wrote OKIB staff.
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