Penticton - The Penticton Indian band has filed a multimillion dollar land claim covering almost one third of this Okanagan city. The claim for 445 hectares, almost the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park, is for a parcel of land known as the Timber Reserve, originally made part of the band's reserve in 1877. Some of Penticton's most expensive residential and commercial land is located in the area under dispute.
"Obviously we don't expect to get all that land back after all this time," band land manager Joan Philip said Friday. "We do expect to be compensated for it." Penticton Mayor Beth Campbell said the issue is "just another example" of how aboriginal land claims are affecting BC. "We have a very healthy relationship with the band in terms of communication," said Campbell, "and I don't see us handling this issue any differently. Band lawyer Ray Richardson said taxpayers will end up paying millions because of Tom Ellis, a Penticton pioneer who illegally took the land out of the Penticton Indian reserve. The Timber Reserve was established, along with the rest of the reserve, by the Joint Reserve Commission in 1877.
It encompassed more than 566 hectares of what is now Penticton and was to be used as a resource area solely for the use of the Pen-tak-ten. That changed when Ellis, an early cattle baron, took over about 120 hectares of the Timber Reserve before 1890 simply by fencing it off. Ellis didn't like the Indians crossing his land to get to the rest of the Timber Reserve and he also wanted the rest of the reserve for himself. The Penticton band won a partial claim on the land in 1982.