Kelowna Museum and the Sncəwips Heritage Museum collaborate to share Indigenous knowledge and perespective. -Image: syilx-Okanagan Nation Alliance

Films share 150 years of syilx history

Central Okanagan Foundation’s Canada 150 grant leads to joint effort by two Okanagan museums

This year Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation, however a collaboration between the Kelowna Museum and the Sncəwips Heritage Museum aims to acknowledge and inform everyone about the much longer history of this land and its people.

With funding from the Central Okanagan Foundation’s Canada 150 grants program, the museums representing both sides of the lake are creating six videos that bring Indigenous knowledge and perspective to topics of interest in the Okanagan.

“We want to share that our culture and our language are alive and growing, and we are proud of our community,” said Jordan Coble from the Sncəwips Heritage Museum in Westbank and a member of the syilx/Okanagan Nation. “These videos bring an authentic and inclusive view of history told from the voices of our people themselves.”

The short films are being produced by Rick Sagayadan from SAGAcom, a trusted videographer in the Westbank First Nation community and feature several syilx Elders.

Linda Digby, Executive Director of the Kelowna Museum, explained why this was an important project to undertake during Canada’s sesquicentennial.

“First, we wanted to bring a new perspective to Canada’s story, not the whitewashed version. It’s about acknowledging that First Nations history goes back much further than 150 years. Secondly, this project is an important local follow-up on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. And finally, the BC education curriculum now includes teaching on Indigenous culture and history, yet many local teachers don’t know how or where to get information.”

Each video highlights uniquely Okanagan topics, such as the syilx water spirit n̓x̌aʔx̌ʔitkʷ (known by many as Ogopogo), the significance of traditional winter homes called q̓ʷc̓iʔ in the traditional language, and the effects of the Father Pandosy Mission and residential schools on local First Nations members.

“We chose a wide range of topics because we want to reach a wide range of people,” Coble added. “It’s not to show right or wrong or lay blame, but to reclaim our history and get the authentic truth out there.”

The videos are set to be complete in the fall and will be shown at both Sncəwips Heritage Museum and Kelowna Museums, and online for all to view.

Both Coble and Digby are passionate about expanding on the project and strengthening the Museums relationship further in the future.

“Our goal is that when people leave the Kelowna Museum, they can look around at the land with a new perspective,” Digby said.

“We hope for all people to understand what it means to be Okanagan, and appreciate those walking with us on the journey towards reconciliation,” Coble said.