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‘We are not Native…we are Indians’: Okanagan elder

OKIB elder speaks to renaming at Vernon Truth and Reconciliation ceremony where flags temporarily raised

Not native, not Indigenous, but Indian.

Okanagan Indian Band Elder Pauline Gregoire-Archachan said her people have been called many things over the years, but she doesn’t understand why people keep trying to change who they are.

“We are Indians before anything else,” she said during Vernon’s National Truth and Reconciliation ceremony Friday, Set. 30 in front of city hall. “Our younger generation will go along with whatever the government wants to name us.”

“But we are not native, native can be any colour, any nationality.

“We are North American Indians.”

“Do they change the Chinese name? No they do not.

“Do they change the East Indians name? No they do not

“Do they change the Germans name? No they do not.”

Her words were shared with hundreds of people, forming a sea of orange at the event organized by the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society (VDICSS).

“I’m so happy to see all the people here, just a handful of Indians,” she chuckled.

“I’m just so happy to be here, to reconcile, so they say. We’re far from it, but we’re trying.”

To honour the day, two flags were raised above city hall - the Okanagan Indian Band and Okanagan Nation Alliance flags.

“We live on land that was taken from them,” said VDICSS’s Anetha Kashuba, who organized the event upon learning there was nothing planned in Vernon. “Today we raise your flags in recognition of this truth so may it honour you.”

Hoots, hollers and cheers of excitement ensued.

But it was an emotional event for Kashuba, of Metis heritage. She is also disheartened that the flags raised could not be permanent at city hall. But she vows that by next year’s ceremony they will be.

Various community leaders rose to read out each of the 94 calls to action, most of which have not been achieved.

VDICSS strives to do what it can to right the wrongs and just as schools are now teaching the dark chapter of Canada’s history, the VDICSS also educates new citizens this country’s unfortunate past.

READ MORE: Hundreds march in Enderby to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

READ MORE: Okanagan College students crush competition to earn national championships


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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