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New beach name reflects Okanagan Indian Band history

Storyboard erected at former Sandy Beach near Kin Beach, which is now called Canoe Beach
A storyboard has been erected sharing the history of the newly named Canoe Beach landmark. (RDNO photo)

What is now a popular beach for residents and tourists, was historically a key site for the Syilx people, whose story of the land is now in place for all to see, under a new name.

A new interpretative sign telling the story of Syilx presence in the area and particularly at Canoe Bay (formerly known as Sandy Beach) was unveiled on the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Sept. 30 near Kin Beach.

“I am pleased to see the interpretive sign erected at Canoe Bay because this area has always held great importance to the Syilx people,” Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis said. “The Syilx presence in the area goes back centuries and our people used this beach and the area for trading, ceremonies, celebrations, fishing, hunting and for gathering food.”

The sign, developed in cooperation with OKIB’s Territorial Stewardship Division and Language and Culture team, tells the story of how the bay was used traditionally by the Syilx people.

The project began more than four years ago when OKIB and the City of Vernon started a Community Economic Development Initiative together. It became clear that developing a shared understanding of history and of Syilx presence in the area before settlement was key to developing a more honest relationship.

“Recognizing and understanding the history of the Syilx people is a fundamental part of our journey together,” Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said. “The City of Vernon is happy to see the new interpretative sign at Canoe Beach, and we will be installing a similar sign at Kin Beach to help share the Syilx history of this area.”

The RDNO and OKIB have developed a meaningful working relationship over the past few years. In 2020 a beach maintenance agreement was signed whereby the RDNO maintains the beach and regional residents are permitted to respectfully use the space, which is reserve land. The beach now features walking paths, landscaping, seating, and a regular maintenance schedule.

“I am very pleased with the way that we, through the Electoral Area B and C Parks service, have been able to work with the OKIB to improve the user experience on this tremendous community asset, made possible by the generosity and vision of the OKIB Chief and council,” Area B director Bob Fleming said.

Area C director Amanda Shatzko looks forward to continuing partnerships and learning more about Syilx culture.

“We applaud the OKIB for renaming this beautiful beach and adding interpretive signage that will further enhance the visitor experience and inform people about the Syilx historical use of the area,” she said

The signs unveiled are designed to help regional residents learn about the cultural significance of the lands in the hopes that they treat the land and waters with respect. More signage work will be undertaken in the future in other locations to continue this journey of reflection and shared learning.

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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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