Landscape Aesthetics, Water, and Settler Colonialism in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia
Historic and contemporary patterns of settler colonialism and agricultural development in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia are described, emphasizing the ways in which settler culture has led to the production of a landscape aesthetic that reproduces colonization as an iterative cultural practice. I explore the ways in which this particular landscape aesthetic is dependent on the economic and symbolic meanings of water in Okanagan settlement history. The images of the Okanagan that were used to attract settlers to the valley a century ago emphasized the lush, oasis-like qualities of orchards and lakes set among a dramatic, arid and mountainous backdrop. This oasis aesthetic exists in sharp contrast to that held by the Syilx indigenous people who were displaced and marginalized as a consequence of agricultural development. Today, as land prices escalate and orchards become less economically viable, it is the orchardists themselves who are being displaced by a new generation of settlers who come here to retire or make their livings in the wine tourism industry. As the environmental costs of these changes accumulate, Okanagan residents are challenged to articulate a more sustainable landscape aesthetic rooted in local ecology.