Westbank First Nation councillor Christopher Derickson helps Felix Kavanagh, four, at the unveiling of a new indigenous garden, Tuesday, June 27 at Okanagan College. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Garden celebrates aboriginal culture

An indigenous garden was unveiled yesterday at Kelowna’s Okanagan College campus

Okanagan College called it a first step in recognizing First Nations history on its campus.

The college held a celebration on Wednesday, unveiling its indigenous garden.

The garden’s traditional name (na – kool – a – men) translates to “the things that we do.”

The garden was established to recognize the history and knowledge of indigenous people in the region. The name reflects the close relationship indigenous people maintain with plants and the land, said an Okanagan College release. This includes maintenance of the land, selection and use of plants for food, technology, medicines, ceremonial purposes and the sharing of knowledge.

“The intent of the garden is more experiential learning,” said aboriginal services coordinator Anthony Issac.

Okanagan College president Jim Hamiliton said the garden symbolizes the college’s first step in recognizing the knowledge and history of the First Nations people.

Vice chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors and Westbank First Nation councillor Chris Derickson attended the event, and was one of the volunteers who helped place plants in the garden during the unveiling.

“If you speak about it in the context of a relationship, our people have been relegated to the back of buildings, away from the public mindset and a garden like this symbolizes the relationship Okanagan College has with Westbank First Nation,” he said.

Derickson said colleges and universities are leading the charge with recognizing indigenous content within their educational instituions and are bridging the gap between educational facilities and aboriginal peoples.

“For indigenous people I think it’s much more representative saying we belong in a public place, in a public educational institution and to learn our traditional ways and values.”

He also touched on the subject of Canada 150 celebrations, which have been criticized around the Okanagan.

“For a lot of indigenous people, it’s the opportunity to celebrate the next 150 years because for a lot of our people in the last 150 years there’s not a lot to celebrate,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to the possibility of what the future holds like the garden, it takes a lot of tending and nurturing and time to grow.”

The college has around 1,600 indigenous learners.

The garden took a little over a year to compete with more than 30 volunteers. It holds more than 490 plants and is located outside of the Centre for Learning building on the college campus.

More than 100 people attended the unveiling.