It was a special day for the Central Okanagan’s Land-Based Learning Program and the Kelowna RCMP on Wednesday, June 28.
RCMP media relations officer Const. Mike Della-Paolera was given the task to design a new challenge coin for the Kelowna detachment. He immediately contacted local First Nations residents Kevin Kaiser (Stellat’en First Nation member) and Kyla Shields (Westbank First Nation member), who run the Land-Based Love program at eight middle schools in the city. The three of them ‘challenged’ the students in the program to design the new coin.
“There is no better symbol for the newest Kelowna RCMP Challenge Coin than having representation from the Indigenous Youth and the Syilx People,” the Kelowna RCMP said in a release when they announced the new coin was coming back in March.
After months of learning about heritage and Indigenous culture, all the students (more than 100) drew their designs for the new coin and handed them in, tasking Della-Paolera to go through them. After him, Kaiser, and Shields narrowed it down to 10 designs, they took pieces from each design to make the new challenge coin, but it was mostly based off a design drawn by Rutland Middle School student Jonah Doyle.
“It was incredible the excitement you all showed me on this project, you took it and ran with it,” said Della-Paolera. “Other agencies have already asked us where this coin came from.”
During the challenge, the students had access to the pit-house and garden at Summerhill Winery to help continue their understanding of Indigenous culture.
“When Mike came to us with this idea, we jumped at it,” said Kaiser. “Kyla and I are really lucky to be partnered with Mike and the RCMP.”
The coin was displayed to all the students and teachers to their delight as they could see all their hard work pay off.
“One of the things we have been really proud of is not just the hard work the students have been putting into this all year, but the understanding and care for the land and for your role in taking care of the land,” added Kaiser.
Created during World War I, the challenge coin started as a military tradition and over the years, have extended to police forces around the world. On the coin, one side usually has the RCMP emblem while the other has symbols that represent the city the officers work in. Officers around the world trade their coins like trading cards to show mutual respect between police forces or to give thanks.