Cultural Studies student Lauren Richardson and History student Samantha Steenwyk.

How well do you know Ogopogo?

How did the ‘spirit of the lake’ evolve into the smiling Ogopogo mascot?

  • Jul. 18, 2015 1:00 p.m.

As part of a Cultural Studies course, UBC Okanagan students Lauren Richardson (Cultural Studies) and Samantha Steenwyk (History) researched how the creation of the Ogopogo as a mascot for the community appropriated and displaced N’ha-a-itk, the spirit of the lake.

The students’ research is now on display at the Okanagan Heritage Museum. It presents a history of Kelowna’s beloved Ogopogo that many people in Kelowna may not know. It also invites people to share their “sightings” of Ogopogo toys, sculptures, and other images they find in the Kelowna community, as a way to examine how the Ogopogo is mainly a mascot and commodity.

“Our goal was to refocus on the interconnectedness of land, people, creatures, and especially water, in hopes that museum visitors will re-examine and challenge their view of Ogopogo,” Steenwyk says.

Drawing from the collections and archives of the Kelowna Museums and resources from Sncəwips Heritage Museum in Westbank First Nation, the students’ display highlights how the spirit of the lake was transformed into a “monster” by early settlers and explains the significance of N’ha-a-itk in Syilx culture today.

“Such community-engaged projects create opportunities to investigate and challenge my own understanding of my role in the various communities I count myself a part of,” says Richardson.

The students say the project provided them both the opportunity to develop their research and communication skills in partnership with a community organization and they appreciate the learning opportunities they received from Kelowna Museums curatorial manager Amanda Snyder.

“As we begin renewing our permanent exhibitions we are striving for greater public participation in the stories we share,” says Snyder. “This display brings to light the significance of N’ha-a-itk and the role settlers played in transforming the stories they heard into the Ogopogo.”

The display can be viewed at the Okanagan Heritage Museum, 470 Queensway Ave., downtown Kelowna until the end of August. Cultural Studies student Lauren Richardson and History student Samantha Steenwyk encourage people to share their “sightings” of Ogopogo toys, sculptures, and other images they see in the Kelowna community. Their Ogopogo display is at the Okanagan Heritage Museum until the end of August.


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