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

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

Kelly Lynn Whitney has been acclaimed as the successful candidate on Oct. 16, in the Village of Port Clements by Election. Seen in photos Kelly Whitney-Gould is pictured putting finishing touches on “Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk.” (Kelly Whitney-Gould/Submitted photo)
Kelly Lynn Whitney acclaimed in By Election

Village of Port Clements By Election success

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of UBC geoscientists discovered the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read