Sheri Stelkia, an elder in the Osoyoos Indian Band, shares stories with visitors stories about how the Okanagan people were self-reliant and well provided for through their own ingenuity.

In the South Okanagan, Indigenous Culture Speaks from the Heart

Sharing language and culture with Okanagan visitors

Late August is berry-picking season and for Sheri Stelkia, it is time to stock food for the winter ahead. If she can pick five pounds of huckleberries before the season ends she will have enough to last her until spring.

Generations ago, Stelkia’s ancestors would have camped in the mountains for a week to secure their bounty of berries. Today, visitors to the Osoyoos and Oliver region of British Columbia can participate in the Indigenous practice of collecting berries at various locations around the area.

The gathering of food is a way of life that provides a direct connection to Stelkia’s lineage as a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band.

“Many, many years ago they would have been picking for weeks. They would have dried up all the berries and it would have been saved for the winter,” she says.

The Okanagan Nation, some of whom refer to themselves as Syilx people, have for thousands of years lived on territory that covers forests, grasslands, lakes and desert. On that land and in the waters, Stelkia, an elder in the Osoyoos Indian Band, tells visitors stories, known in her Syilx language as captíkʷł, (which is pronounced chapteekwthl) about how the Okanagan people were self-reliant and well provided for through their own ingenuity.

Living in the South Okanagan, Stelkia says she hopes visitors to her region will learn about how the story of the Four Food Chiefs combines land and sea and the old and new worlds.

“It tells people about why we’re so respectful of the land and the food,” she says.

Language and culture remain alive for the Okanagan Nation because it can be shared with others, including visitors. The Syilx Language House, located at 190 Footprints Court in Penticton, was formed as a non-profit for the purpose of creating new generations of nsyilxcən (pronounced nseeylxchin with the x sound like an h) speakers in the community and recording the stories told by elders like Stelkia. Nsyilxcn, like most Indigenous languages, is critically endangered. Fewer than 100 fluent elders remain and until recently no new speakers had been created in Canada for decades.

When visitors come to Osoyoos and Oliver and the region where the Okanagan Nation people have inhabited long before colonization, Stelkia hopes they can see and hear how the Syilx-speaking people are keeping alive their rich culture and legends through interactive activities and programs at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

“The land is where we come from and where we’re all going to go back to,” says Stelkia. “It’s like our language and culture. It’s all locked together.”

MORE ABOUT VISITING SOUTH OKANAGAN

Where to Stay: Spirit Ridge Resort, Unbound Collection by Hyatt Location: 1200 Rancher Creek Road, Osoyoos, BC (see map below) Website: spiritridge.hyatt.com Telephone: 250-495-5445 Room Rates: A search on the property’s booking engine returned a nightly rate of $199 for a September weekend.

INDIGENOUS EXPERIENCES

Syilx Language House: Visit the facility’s website to learn about its impressive programs focused on keeping alive and broadening the knowledge of the Syilx language.

NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre: This outstanding attraction includes exhibits, programming and educational seminars about the Okanagan Nation and Osoyoos Indian Band. It is adjacent to Spirit Ridge Resort. Check its website to plan your visit.

Note: This article is the first in an expanded content series focusing on travel to Osoyoos and the Oliver. It was created in partnership with Destination BC, the Osoyoos Indian Band, Arterra Wines Canada, Spirit Ridge Resort – Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Destination Osoyoos, and the Oliver Tourism Association.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Sheri Stelkia hopes that when people visit the region the Okanagan Nation have inhabited since long before colonization, they’ll see and hear how the Syilx-speaking people are keeping alive their rich culture and legends through interactive activities and programs at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Tigh-Na-Mara general manager Paul Drummond, left, and SOS executive director Susanna Newton right are prepared for a reinvented Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive in 2020. COVID-19 will not spoil the community’s annual day of giving and help for local families through the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. (Peter McCully photo)
Reinventing Parksville Qualicum Beach’s popular Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive

COVID-19 restrictions won’t spoil community’s annual morning of giving

Map of the location of the Telus cell tower that it plans to build in Qualicum Beach. (Town of Qualicum Beach Map)
Qualicum Beach council approves location of Telus communications tower

Plan is to improve cellphone service in the area

The City of Quesnel has painted its functional fire hydrants with different characters. (Quesnel Downtown Association Photo)
Qualicum Beach committee wants fire hydrants painted with sea life designs

Local artists would be invited to help with the work

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a woman who allegedly threw hot coffee on a McDonald’s employee. (News Bulletin photo)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP still looking for woman who threw coffee at worker after already receiving refund

Police asking for information in investigation that could lead to assault charges

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read