A new sign in Naramata recognizes the traditional Syilx name for the area, which translates to House of Bald Eagle. Photo courtesy Penticton Indian Band

Naramata honours Syilx culture

New community sign recognizes traditional name for area

It’s not a new name for Naramata, but a sign at the entrance to the little community recognizes the name the area was known by long ago.

Long before European settlers arrived on the scene, that area was known as citxʷs paqəlqyn, or House of Bald Eagle, by the Syilx people.

Recognizing the area’s traditional name is part of an important process, according to James Pepper, the PIB’s natural resources department director.

“It’s part of a really important process. Something that is often overlooked is there is a deep-rooted history, as the chief (Chad Eneas) mentioned in his speech. At the lower levels, we have artifacts and archaeology that date back to around 4,500 to 5, 000 years ago. In the upper elevations we have archaeology that dates back even farther than that because there was ice in the lower reaches,” said Pepper. “This is a really interesting, rich, cultural history and this is a really important part of that. We know that Naramata was essentially home to numerous bald eagle roosts, hence the name House of Bald Eagle, citxʷs paqəlqyn.”

The genesis of the name recognition project came out of a park-naming project. Karla Kozakevich, Naramata’s director on the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board, said the area had acquired a new park and decided to turn to the public to suggest names.

“One of them that was suggested was Eagles’ House and they said that was the traditional name of Naramata. Then we had a vote and the public voted that as the highest, that they wanted that,” said Kozakevich.

They contacted the PIB and found out that wasn’t quite right. House of Bald Eagle was the more accurate translation, and it applied to the larger area.

“We just decided to put a recognition sign at the entrance to Naramata to identify the whole area as traditionally known as House of Bald Eagle,” said Kozakevich. The park ended up being named Spirit Park, another of the favourite names gathered through voting on mynaramata.com

“Things like that are really of interest and I think they are an important part of reconciliation, sharing that knowledge and understanding each other’s perspective. Changing place names, or amalgamating them as we have, is a really important part in that process,” said Pepper. “We are fortunate here at the natural resources department to meet weekly with the language speakers, elders and knowledge keepers and they advise us on a lot of the work we do and undertake.

“One of those discussions was around place names. Place names, in Syilx culture, are more than just names. They have a cultural context and this one did as well.”

Kozakevich said it was an “outstanding opportunity to work more closely with the PIB,” and that PIB Chief Chad Eneas was very supportive of the process.

“We’re looking at possible future projects with them as well, so this is sort of a springboard to some other future opportunities,” said Kozakevich.

Pepper also sees this as helping develop the working relationship between the two governments.

“With inter-government relations, there are some tough conversations, and that those can be difficult to have and they take a long time. But there are also ways that are easy for us to work together,” said Pepper. “This is one of those ways. Working with the regional district, we’ve had a very good working relationship for this project, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Pepper said he’s looking for more opportunities to talk some of the “low-hanging fruit” along with the tougher discussions.

“If you always focus relationship development on the really hard contentious stuff, it’s going to be really hard to forge ahead,” said Pepper. “But if you allow room for some of these easy wins, you start getting to know each other and it makes the tough stuff easier to talk about and move forward with.”


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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