New WFN Heritage Repository gathering band artifacts
A coyote howling at the sky is silhouetted against a rising moon, with a copper sky surrounding it.
Below, a grizzly is sitting in the lake, fishing.
Pictographs of an eagle and a kokanee skeleton, designed by artist Janine Lott, have been added to the top corners to symbolize the cycle of life, and death.
Westbank First Nation curator Gayle Liman points to the Pendleton blanket hanging on the wall of the band’s new Heritage Repository of art and artifacts and explains that its design was a collaborative effort over the past couple of years.
It began when she realized the band was giving away Navaho native blankets as gifts, and she suggested instead they design a unique WFN blanket; one that represented what is important in WFN culture and history.
In each corner is the WFN logo designed by Mary Derrickson, which features a grizzly pawprint with a coyote’s head silhouetted in the middle and a serpent in the waves underneath, representing the Ogopogo, or N'haitik.
“The lake serpent was embraced by the WFN people and became a metaphor for sustainability, because as long as the lake is clean there is hope for the plants and medicines and the people,” explains Liman.
They see the sacred serpent not as something to be feared or even revered, but as a creature created by the Creator.
The Sqilx people have much respect for the kokanee or kikinee, which was their major source of food and coyote, or sen’klip, was sent by the Creator to teach them how to live. He’s also known as the trickster.
The project of creating a WFN blanket was overseen by Delphine Derickson, the WFN cultural and language advisor and band councillor Raf deGuevera.
Liman says they often get calls from people or organizations looking for something that represents the WFN, and now they have the blanket, which is available for sale from the band.
Already Big White has purchased a couple to display, as well as the Kelowna Museums and several schools.
Liman says she could see them doing a series, perhaps of the groups of traditional foods, such as plants and wildlife.
Such opportunities help to inform more people about the WFN culture and language. She points to Hawaii and how everyone knows that aloha means hello and is a greeting that visitors to the island all use.
“So why don’t more people in Westbank say ‘way’ which is the greeting in the nsyilxcin language?” Liman wondered.
Derickson takes a banner when she visits schools that says “We are Sqilx” to begin her talk. Academically, they are known as Interior Salish people.
After two years of effort, they have recently received a grant from Canadian Heritage to help them set up digitization training to help them manage their collection of artifacts, and several staff have now received training from the Kelowna Museums. The museum staff have been really helpful in getting the new repository set up, she notes.
Officially, it opened in Governor’s Landing last summer and it is open, by appointment, during mid-week days.
In the new space, they are collecting, preserving, restoring and interpreting to reflect the cultural and natural history of their heritage. They are building the foundation for a heritage and cultural centre to be built in the future, where aboriginal art and artifacts are collected and displayed.
“I recommended beginning small and to be faithful to what we have,” she notes.
Liman said they are accepting suitable pieces, with the first priority local and Syilx artifacts; second Okanagan Nation; third, other aboriginal communities in B.C.; then other aboriginal communities in Canada and the U.S., and then pieces from further afield.
They also maintain a rotating exhibit at the Kelowna International Airport and at the WFN government offices.
Liman and Derickson can be reached at 250-768-7738.