The Kelowna RCMP is updating their ‘challenge coin’ to help reflect the Indigenous heritage in the Central Okanagan.
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.
Constable Mike Della-Paolera, the Kelowna RCMP Media Relations officer was tasked with redesigning the coin. He immediately got in contact with local First Nations residents Kevin Kaiser (Stellat’en First Nation member) and Kyla Shields (Westbank First Nation member), who run the Land-Based Learning program at eight middle schools in the city. More than Indigenous 100 students are involved in the program, where they learn about their environment, heritage, and history to pass on to future generations. This year, the program partnered with Summerhill Winery to have access to the Pit-House and garden in order to give the students a place to learn as well as understand their heritage.
“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.
Kaiser and Shields were ecstatic when Della-Paolera approached them with the opportunity.
“It was amazing when he came and spoke to us,” said Kaiser. “We try to get the community involved as much as possible and partnering anytime with the RCMP is a win.”
They decided the best way to approach the idea was to make it a class project where the students designed the coin themselves as they continued to learn about their heritage. In a two-month span, they received more than 100 entries and students wanted to continue to submit ideas after the deadline.
“It was a journey,” said Kaiser. “The only rule they had was that their design had to be local and be a representation of the Okanagan. Their design didn’t necessarily need to have an indigenous theme or even a background, but of course a lot of the things we do already have an indigenous theme and we talk about our interconnectedness for the land. A lot of their designs were based on the learning that we were doing and at the time Mike came to us, it was the season of salmon so that was reflected in their submissions. I was blown away by their talent and their designs, they really are an amazing group of students.”
“It has been an incredible experience working with the students,” added Della-Paolera. “I was completely caught off guard with the level of talent and creativity of the submissions. I was hoping we would get five or six students participate, but what was submitted was inspiring.”
All the submissions were handed in to the RCMP committee, who will go through all the entries and narrow them down to the top 10.
Westbank First Nation artist Coralee Miller now has the 10 submissions and is creating the challenge coin, taking a piece from each of the designs. When the final coin is designed, created, and made, all the members of the program will be presented the coin and each will receive one.
When the final coin is updated, the RCMP will release the design for the public to see.