OC’s Vernon campus flies Syilx flag permanently
July 16, 2019
A Syilx Okanagan Nation flag has found a permanent home at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, after a historic ceremony today.
Representatives of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), Okanagan Indian Band and Okanagan College gathered today for a flag raising ceremony recognizing the traditional unceded territories of the Syilx (Okanagan) people.
“We are very pleased that Okanagan College has chosen to recognize our people and our legacy through this important and permanent symbol,” says Okanagan Indian Band Councillor Allan Louis. “For centuries our people have thrived in the area. And for many decades we have weathered injustices that have taken a huge toll on our nation. It is gestures like this event today that help move us all toward a more equitable and mutually beneficial relationship.”
“Okanagan College values and respects Indigenous culture and ways of knowing. Today’s flag raising is a symbolic gesture, as well as an incremental step toward Indigenization and authentic partnership that can enrich the education of learners,” says Chris Derickson, Okanagan College Board of Governors Chair.
Today’s flag raising is the second ceremony recognizing Indigenous peoples in whose lands the College resides; last month, the College raised a permanent ONA flag at the Kelowna campus.
“Indigenization is about learning more about Indigenous knowledge, people and place, and it starts by acknowledging the Syilx Okanagan people on whose traditional territory we live, learn, work and play,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Every day moving forward, our students, staff and community will see this flag and feel inspired by this symbol of respect and reconciliation.”
Dignitaries spoke about the relationship between the College and the ONA. Elder Pauline Archachan opened the ceremony with a blessing. Amber Cardenas sang The Okanagan Song as the flag was raised by Okanagan Indian Band students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance flag features animals, water and the landscape significant to the area, as a representation of Syilx Okanagan people’s understanding of living in reciprocity and harmony with the natural world.
The flag builds on the Indigenous physical presence at the Vernon campus, which includes the Kalamalka Garden – green space containing indigenous food plants from the Okanagan territory, as well as other native species that are significant to Indigenous people of the region.