Skip to main content

way̓ kʷ‿ckicx (whay khu_ch-key-ch) Hello, you have arrived

way̓ x̌ast sx̌əlx̌ʕált (whay hast selh-halt) Greetings, good day

iskʷist st’aʔqʷal’qs, inmʼístəm Wilfred Barnes, int’um Sandi Alexander. (ee-skeest sTa-kwelks, een-meestem Wilfred Barnes, een-toom Sandi Alexander.)

My Syilx name is shimmery, glittery patchwork dress, my father’s name is Wilfred Barnes and my mother’s name is Sandi Alexander.

This is a semi-formal introduction. In many indigenous cultures it is important to introduce who an individual is, who their parents are and in more formal introductions who their grandparents are and even as far as their great-grandparents. Individuals may also include where they live, where their family is from (eg. Westbank, Vernon, Omak, etc.) It is not uncommon to hear younger people include their age. The reasoning behind including parents and lineage is so that community members may not know an individual, but may know their parents or grandparents. It allows the community to know who they are, through their lineage, how they were raised and keep each individual accountable to their family for their actions.

My name is Hailey Causton;1 I am from Westbank First Nation. I am in my fourth year at the University of British Columbia Okanagan and will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Indigenous Studies. I am twenty-two years old, and have been learning Syilx culture and language for five years now. Wherever my formal education may take me, my goal is to stay rooted in the Okanagan and share my traditional knowledge with upcoming generations and community.

I will be contributing to the Lake Country Museum blog from a Syilx perspective, sharing what I can in a positive way.

The indigenous people of the Okanagan Valley are the Syilx people. There are eight member communities within the Okanagan Nation; from north to south are the Upper Nicola Band, Okanagan Indian Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Upper Similkameen Indian Band Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, and Colville Confederated Tribes.2  All communities share the traditional language Nsyilxcən, with various dialects. Language is important in many indigenous cultures; without language often meanings and values may be lost. There is an Nsyilxcən word for every indigenous plant, animal and place throughout the territory.

Dugout canoeCanoeing is an important tradition that is practised throughout the territory. The Okanagan Lake and other waterways were the fastest mode of transportation, the original highway and road. Now the Lake is a designated hotspot for leisure and recreational activities for residents and tourists. There is a variety of styles of canoes but the most common one used currently is the cottonwood dugout canoe. Dugout canoes are time consuming to create but if cared for properly will last for many years. There are many dugouts up and down the Valley and they are brought out during canoe journeys and ceremonies.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) organizes a Salmon Feast in Okanagan Falls during early to mid September. It is a three day event open to the public. People are welcome to come and watch the canoes, listen to and learn from the speakers and enjoy some of the entertainment. Usually on the Saturday morning Syilx youth, adults and elders will canoe Skaha Lake and beach in Okanagan Falls.

limləmt (leem-lemt) Thank you.

1 Hailey Causton is a summer student working as the Assistant Curator at the Lake Country Museum this summer (2015).

2 Okanagan Nation Alliance website

Syilx Okanagan Nation territorial claim

Syilx Okanagan Nation Alliance (Member Bands)


Leave a Reply