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Okanagan Nation Begins Its 9th Syilx Unity Run for Youth Suicide and Violence Awareness

by ahnationtalk on April 30, 20151425 Views

April 29, 2015

The Spirit of Syilx Youth Unity Run will kick off tomorrow at 1:30 pm in the southern portion of the Okanagan Nation territory in Omak Washington, where the run ended last year.

The run will commence at the Omak Pow Wow Grounds and head up past Omak Lake to Nespelem. The run will carry on for the next three days with runners relaying 230kms through Keller and Inchelium with the final destination being Christina Lake British Columbia on May 3, 2015.

The goal is to encourage Nationhood through action and healthy life style while tackling key social problems. By utilizing action as a means to engage with youth in the community, ONA has a significant opportunity to reach the ever-growing number of youth among the eight member communities.  Every year the number of participants is on the rise, which provides youth with an opportunity to reconnect with their culture in a positive environment.

“The Spirit of the Syilx Unity Run means reconnecting the land and the people in parts of our territory we don’t often go.  It means affirming our existence and the existence of our ancestors who travelled these routes on foot.  For us to do the simple act of putting foot to ground, instead of always driving a car, reconnects us to the more important things in life.  We feel the spirit of the land, the wind, the rain, the sun, and each other.  It heals the heart and soul, and reconnects us as one Nation, one Community, One People, “stated Mariel Belanger a member of the Okanagan Nation and participant of the run.

In Canada, the youth suicide rate is five to six times higher than non-Aboriginal youth:  126 per 100,000 versus 24 per 100,000 (First Nations Regional Health Survey 2008/10).  “First Nations communities in British Columbia that had higher rates of First Nations language use also had lower rates of suicide than did communities where use of the First Nations language was not as common.”  Eric Mitchell, an elder from the Okanagan Indian Band, implored the youth to recognize the mountains and river.  The mountains were put here with the trees and animals.  Whatever made those youth to take their own lives felt inwardly and outwardly alone, but they had the mountains, trees, and animals as their relatives and are never really alone.  This is part of the awareness that the Okanagan Nation Alliance and their elders want to impress upon their youth.

This year the Okanagan Nation welcomes Waylon Pahona, the founder of the Healthy Active Natives Facebook group on the run. He will be sharing with the youth his journey towards a healthier life as well as running alongside the youth. Waylon is a personal trainer and dedicated runner who has making a name for himself in Indian Country. He loves to help other Natives become healthier and is always open to sharing his knowledge of healthy nutrition and exercising.             “It takes time and commitment to endure running. I also embraced it as part of my culture and a way of life,” said, Pahona.

For More Information Contact:

Jennifer Houde, CFYH Services Manager

Phone: 250-826-7844 Email:

Tara Montgomery, ONA Communications

Phone: 250-862-6866 Email:


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