Tommy Gregoire is immortalized on the left side of Vernon’s Okanagan Indian Band mural, which was completed by Michelle Loughery and her team in 2001. If you are interested in learning more of the stories behind the murals, take a tour

This weekend marks the 2022 Historic O’Keefe Ranch’s Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

Considering that the first non-Indigenous settlements to emerge in the Okanagan Valley were cowtowns—communities that appeared at the junction of railroads and livestock trails—Vernon has long boasted a healthy population of cowboys.

Men like Cornelius O’Keefe are often remembered for participating in the Okanagan Valley cattle drives of the 1860s, but even during their time, it was known that the best ropers and riders belonged to the Okanagan Nation. For instance, the Gregoire Family alone included several generations of talented equestrians.     

As told in the book Q’Sapi: A History of Okanagan People as told by Okanagan Families, Francois Gregoire (1865-1944) was a successful rancher who owned a large herd of horses, some of which were used for racing and others for farming. By 1915, he owned a threshing wheat separator which he rented out to other ranchers.

Francois’ son Tommy (1901-2000) also went on to become a well-known rodeo rider. A celebrated Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Tommy was an adamant advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, who, along with his wife Mary, ensured that his children learned nsyilxcən.

Tommy’s son Leonard (1929-2013) was a self-proclaimed cowboy from the start who began exercising his grandfather Francois’ horses at only eight years old. He later worked as a rodeo contractor with his father, and learned to ride broncos and bulls. He even went on to earn six track records in Canada and the U.S. racing quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

Like his father and grandfather, Tommy was proud to be fluent in nsyilxcən, and passed along his teaching to his own grandchildren and other little ones at the Okanagan Language Nest.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Looking south from Middleton Mountain over what used to be Long Lake Reserve #5 circa 1950.

Ancestral Territory

It comes as a surprise to many that one of Vernon’s most popular summer destinations, Kal Beach, is located on what used to be reserve land.

Kal Beach as it now appears. Photo courtesy of Michael Russell Photography.

Needless to say, the ancestral territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation comprised much of Kalamalka Lake; the lake, which bore the name Long Lake up until 1953, is named after Chief Kalamalka after all. Moreover, members of the OKIB still reside on land around the lake where historical villages once stood.

An image from the Final Report of the Royal Commission’s decision in regards to reserves in the Okanagan region. The full report can be viewed online.

However, little evidence remains to mark the bounds of Long Lake Reserve #5, which once stretched from approximately Kal Beach to what is now the Kalavista subdivision. The reserve was allotted in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, established two years earlier by the Federal and Provincial Governments to set the boundaries of reserve land in B.C.

In 1909, Hlakay (also known as Pierre Nequalla), Chief of the Nk’maplqs (Head of the Lake) Band, opposed a sale of the land, suggesting that grave irregularities had occurred in obtaining proper surrender permissions; this was later confirmed by the Federal Government and the sale was set aside. However, in 1913, the land was “cut-off” under the McKenna McBride Royal Commission.

Mckenna mcbride royal commission

The stated goal of this commission (named after the two men who signed it into effect, federal commissioner Joseph McKenna and BC Premier Richard McBride) was to adjust the acreage of reserves in B.C., based on gathered evidence from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as to their adequacy. As a result of the commission, an additional 87,000 acres of reserve land were added to most bands, while 47,000 acres of far more valuable land was removed from 54 bands. This included the 128 acres of Long Lake Reserve #5.

This “cut-off” land was later sold to a Mr. John Kennedy, who then released portions of it to the City of Vernon for beachfront access, and to the Canadian National Railway Company.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Happy Father’s day!

Frank Marchand. Photo by Athena Bonneau, courtesy of https://thediscourse.ca/okanagan/frank-marchand-okanagan-changemaker.

Traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s elders and passing along knowledge to younger generations. Frank Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, epitomizes this cultural value in both the relationship he shared with his father and Elders, and in the role he has played as an educator to dozens of local students.

From Father to son

Frank Marchand’s late father, Gordon Marchand, was a Master Carver, a practice and designation he passed along to his son. Now, Frank has followed in Gordon’s footsteps in emphasizing the importance of dugout canoes and traditional waterways to the syilx and secwepemc people through public education.

A photo of the in-progress canoe constructed by Frank and students from SD22 in 2022. 

CANOE CULTURE REVITALIZED

In 2020, Frank and his apprentice William Poitras spent the summer working with youth from the Westbank First Nation. Together, the group took 21-days to construct a dugout canoe, which was inaugurated at a blessing ceremony at kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), located near Osoyoos. Frank also worked with students in Kamloops’ School District 73 to create three other canoes.

That same year, Frank was nominated as a community changemaker, one of several individuals identified by IndigiNews as having a positive impact on his or her community.

Now, in 2022, Frank has spent several months working with students from Vernon’s Alternate Learning Program, Open Door Education Center, and Kal Secondary School to create another dugout canoe which will be unveiled at a ceremony at Canoe Beach. The canoe will then be on display at the Vernon Museum for summer 2022. 

In addition to revitalizing canoe culture across the Valley, Frank is also a member of the Okanagan Nation Response Team, a group of community members with extensive training in suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response.

FOOTAGE OF FRANK AND STUDENTS WORKING ON A CANOE IN 2018

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company’s Indigenous summer encampment re-creation at Head of the Lake circa 1997.

Indigenous Theatre in Canada

June is National Indigenous History Month, and an opportunity to highlight the history of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company and their contributions towards the advancement of Indigenous theatre in Canada.

When the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company was founded in Vernon in 1988, they were one of only a handful across the entirety of Canada. The company was based on ancestral storytelling practices, and provided an outlet for the expression of Indigenous cultural values and social concerns.

SEN’KLIP = COYOTE

The company’s founder, Lynn Phelan, had previously worked with an Indigenous theatre company in Vancouver before returning to her hometown of Vernon. In 1987, she started the Native Youth Summer Theatre with Ruby Alexis, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band.

The company later changed its name to the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company, after the nsyilxcen word for “Coyote.” To both the Syilx and Secwepemc People, Coyote is considered a trickster, creator, teacher, and entertainer.

In 1989, the company produced its first professional play, “Shadow Warrior,” which toured B.C. Around that time, the company also began developing its “Coyote Tales” series, based on the legends of Sen’Klip. This series was on-going throughout the years, and explored themes of respect for the Earth and its creatures.

The Power of performing arts

The next few years witnessed the continued growth of the company, in both size and popularity. 1992 was a particularly successful year, and saw the company embark on a valley-wide elementary school tour, develop an experimental traditional summer camp (later featured at the PNE), and attend an Ecotourism conference in Whistler.

The Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company ran for a decade, and during that time, they continuously demonstrated the power of performing arts to serve as a major method of cross-cultural communication.

Celebrating SEN’KLIP at the MAV

There will be a display of costumes from the Sen’Klip production of “How Turtle Set the Animals Free,” based on the Syilx captikʷł, at the Vernon Museum in June. Costumes and masks were created by Sen’klip founding director, and renowned Syilx artist, Barbara Marchand.

Music in the Museum performer and local singer-songwriter, Duane Marchand, is also an alumni of the Sen’Klip Native Theatre Company.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A photo of Pauline Johnson, taken shortly before her death in 1913, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Talented Wordsmiths

Vernon has long been home to a plethora of talented wordsmiths, which a humble binder in the Vernon Archives titled “Writers” reveals. The binder is full of information about several of Vernon’s many authors and poets, arranged alphabetically from Thomas Andrews (author of Type: Writer) to Mark Zuehlke (author of Scoundrels, Dreamers, & Second Sons). The Vernon Museum is even lucky enough to have its own award-winning author and poet on staff, Laisha Rosnau.

In addition to these gifted locals, Vernon has also played host to several traveling writers over the years. One that caused a particular stir during her turn-of-the-century visit to the city was Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson).

Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson)

Tekahionwake, born in 1861, was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and daughter of Chief Onwanonsyshon (G. H. M. Johnson) and Emily Howells. Tekahionwake began writing poetry in her mid-teens, after a childhood of poor health largely confined her to indoor pursuits like reading.

Sometime after 1884, following the death of her father, Tekahionwake began a career as a public orator and embarked on a series of speaking tours in Canada, the United States, and England. Her poems were largely patriotic in nature, but she also incorporated elements of Mohawk culture into her performances.

A visit to Vernon

Tekahionwake visited Vernon in 1907, where she offered a poetry recitation in the second-floor hall of the W. F. Cameron general store. By then, she had published two volumes of poems, “The White Wampum” (1894) and “Canadian Born” (1903), and the crowd was large and appreciative.

When she passed away in 1913, the Vernon News dedicated several pages to describing Tekahionwake’s life and many cultural contributions. Despite what her critics might have said during her lifetime and beyond it, this remarkable woman paved the way for other Indigenous female voices to be heard. 

The documentary Why We Write: Poets of Vernon, by Hannah Calder and Curtis Emde, delves into the world of poets and bookmakers living in and around Vernon, British Columbia. It will premiere at the Vernon Museum on April 29 and 30. Click here to learn more.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Marie and William Brent circa 1910.

Okanagan Women’s Voices

A recent publication, edited by Jeannette Armstrong, Lally Grauer, and Janet MacArthur, explores the lives of, and relationship between, seven Syilx and settler women.

Okanagan Women’s Voices: Syilx and Settler Writing and Relations 1870s-1960 was the result of hours spent digging through archives across the Okanagan (including the Vernon Archives) to highlight the voices of Susan Moir Allison (1845-1937), Josephine Shuttleworth (1865-1950), Eliza Jane Swalwell (1868-1944), Marie Houghton Brent (1870-1968), Hester Emily White (1877-1963), Mourning Dove (1886-1936) and Isabel Christie MacNaughton (1915-2003).

Marie Houghton Brent Fonds

One collection in the Vernon archives that proved to be particularly useful to Armstrong, Grauer, and MacArthur was the Marie Houghton Brent fonds (for those unfamiliar with the term, in archival science a fonds refers to a records group). This fonds, which was donated to the Vernon Archives by the Ferry County Historical Society in 2000, contains a wealth of Brent’s correspondences, personal writings, and certificates.

Her Story

Marie Brent was the daughter of Charles Frederick Houghton and Sophie N’Kwala. Houghton, who was originally from Ireland, established the Coldstream Ranch in 1863, which he later sold to Charles and Forbes Vernon. Sophie N’Kwala was a granddaughter of the Grand Chief Hwistesmexe’qen, known commonly as N’Kwala or Nicola.  

Sadly, Sophie passed away when Marie was young, and she was raised by her great-aunt Thérèse (Teresa) N’Kwala Laurence, who raised her to be the family’s historian and taught her the stories and traditions of the Okanagan Nation. As a young women, Marie lived for a time with her father, Charles, in Montreal. She later returned to the Okanagan, where she married William Brent in 1908. Throughout her life, Marie continued in the mission ordained by her great-aunt to preserve and share her ancestral teachings, and between 1935 and 1966 wrote a series of articles which were published in the Okanagan Historical Society (OHS) reports. As Robert Hayes of the Kelowna Branch of the OHS aptly stated, “Thérèse N’Kwala Laurence chose well. We owe her and Marie Houghton Brent a debt of gratitude.”

To learn more about Marie Houghton Brent, and the other six women featured in Okanagan Women’s Voices, grab a copy of the book or join the Vernon Museum for Learn + Connect: Reading for Reconciliation, a virtual book club from April to June 2022 featuring this incredible new publication.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

(Left) Pte. Albert Saddleman, Sr., in a colourized photograph from 1943. (Right) Chief Albert Saddleman, Jr., in 1993.

Monday, November 8, marks Indigenous Veterans Day. Many members of the Okanagan Indian Band served in both World Wars, as well as earlier and later conflicts. In fact, when World War One broke out, every male member of the Nk’maplqs (Head of the Lake) Band between the ages of 20 and 35 enlisted for service.

Albert Saddleman Sr., born in 1911, was only a child during World War One. But by the time World War Two had begun, Saddleman was in his thirties, and he enlisted with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. While overseas, Albert wrote regularly to his wife Della, who gave birth to a son, also named Albert Saddleman, on August 12, 1943. In a letter dated September 25 of that year, Albert Sr. asked Della to send him a photo of their newest arrival.

Tragically, Albert Saddleman was killed in action on September 17, 1944. Della learned of her husband’s death ten days later, in a letter from Saddleman’s lieutenant, W.L. Rooch. The letter described Saddleman as “a reliable and trustworthy solider and a real example to all who served with him during any action.” Rooch added that “his presence will be missed by all of us, as he was a real friend.”

Saddleman was buried with full honours in a military cemetery two miles north of Coriano, Italy.

The legacy of this brave man lived on in the life of his son, Albert Saddleman, Jr., who served as OKIB Chief from 1991 to 1992, and 1994 to 1996. He was instrumental in the formation of the North Okanagan Friendship Center Society, as well as a day care and kindergarten at Komasket Park. He fought for fishing, forestry, and water rights, and sat on the boards of several organizations, including that of the All Nations Trust Company. Albert Saddleman, Jr., died on October 8, 1997.

We will remember them.

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

On September 30, the public is asked to wear orange to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The above logo was created for non-profit use by Andy Everson of the K’ómoks First Nation.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On June 3, 2021, the Canadian Government declared September 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in commemoration of the lost children and survivors of residential schools. This announcement marked the most recent development in Canada’s efforts towards Reconciliation, which remains an ongoing process. The following timeline highlights some of the local and national developments in this fight for justice, but is by no means comprehensive.

 

A Timeline of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

June 30, 1970: The St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School in Cranbrook closes after 80 years of operation. Most Syilx students were sent either to Cranbrook or Kamloops.

May 5, 1977: The North Okanagan Friendship Center Society (NOFCS) is established in Vernon to provide programs, services, and support to the community. 

July 31, 1978: The Kamloops Residential School closes after 88 years of operation.

1994: The Indian Residential School Survivors Society begins as a working committee of the First Nations Summit.

1996: Canada’s last federally-funded residential school, the Gordon’s Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, closes.

March 31, 1998: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is established to fund projects that address the intergenerational impacts of Canada’s residential school system.

2001: The documentary “Survivors of the Red Brick Schoolhouse” is produced by a group of former Syilx students of the St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School, under the direction of Virginia Baptiste.

Nov. 23, 2005: The Canadian Government announces a $2-billion compensation package for Indigenous Peoples who were forced to attend residential schools.

2008: Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers an apology to residential school survivors.

2008: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) is officially launched. Over the course of 6 years, the TRC interviews more than 6,500 witnesses, and hosts 7 national events to engage and educate the Canadian public.

2015: The TRC releases its final report which includes 94 Calls to Action.

2015: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) establishes the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee.

Nov. 28, 2017: The ONA unveils the Syilx Okanagan Indian Residential School Monument in Penticton.

June 18, 2020: OKIB Chief Byron Louis and Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming begin regular meetings to develop a stronger relationship between the Band and the City.

 

To learn more, please join us at the museum on September 30, 2021, to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a series of presentations and displays. Click here to learn more. 

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Toward Truth & Reconciliation

 

at the Vernon Museum & Archives

 

Thursday, SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

 

Please join us in honouring Canada’s first annual National Day for Truth & Reconciliation.

We will be offering exhibits and programs throughout the day. 

We will have self-led activities, such as scavenger hunts and colouring and activity pages, to engage younger children.

SCHEDULE

 

1 PM – EXHIBIT OPENING

The Community Hall will have displays on Truth & Reconciliation, Residential Schools in Canada, and Residential Schools in BC. 

Suitable for all ages.

 

2 PM – PRESENTATION: HOW DO WE RECONCILE?

Presentation on Truth & Reconciliation in Canada

Suitable for all ages.

 

3 PM – DOCUMENTARY VIEWING

Viewing of a residential school survivor’s personal account

Suitable for 12+ years.

 

4 PM – PRESENTATION: HOW DO WE RECONCILE?

Presentation on Truth & Reconciliation in Canada. (Repeat of 2 PM)

Suitable for all ages.

 

 

 

 

 

6 PM – DOCUMENTARY VIEWING

6 PM – Viewing of a residential school survivor’s personal account

Suitable for 12+ years.

 

7 PM – DISCUSSION CIRCLE: HOW TO BE AN ALLY

Reading of the letter to Sir Wilfred Laurier from the Chiefs of the Syilx, Secwepmec, and Nlaka’pamux Nations (1910) followed by a facilitated Community Discussion Circle on how to be an ally.

Suitable for 12+ years.

Due to public health precautions, we will have a limited occupancy for this Discussion Circle. If you would like to reserve your spot, please register in advance below!

 

PLEASE NOTE

The Vernon Museum will be following all provincial public health mandates and recommendations. Masks will be required inside the museum, and physical distancing between parties. Vaccine passports may be required to be shown to enter the museum for those over 12 years. Thank you for your understanding.

 

How to Be An Ally Discussion Circle - Registration

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White Rock Lake Fire

Okanagan Lake has been the subject of much media attention over the last few weeks, since the most eastern flank of the White Rock Lake Fire has reached its shores. However, given the lake’s long history (it is, in fact, pre-historic), this is not the first time it has made the news.

A series of Anomolies

In February of 2021, some North Okanagan residents were shocked to see what appeared to be a tornado emerging over the lake near Fintry. This was later identified to be a steam devil, which forms over large bodies of water during cold air outbreaks. Steam devils are common occurrences on Canada’s Great Lakes, but it was only due to the North Okanagan’s unusual cold snap this past winter that one was able to form over Okanagan Lake.   

In 1979, the lake was recognized as an excellent location for underwater treasure hunters. Hundreds of pieces of glass and earthenware were found to be lying on the lake bottom, thrown overboard over the years by passengers on sternwheelers and other water crafts. In 1978, two divers discovered, at the bottom of the lake, an old steamer trunk full of collectible bottles, much to their delight.

On November 4, 1913, a tugboat called the Skookum collided with a CPR tug, the SS Castlegar, and sank almost immediately. The crew survived, with some minor injuries, but the vessel was never recovered. It is believed that the tug remains, to this day, in the silent depths of the lake. 

Sometime in the mid-1880s, the infamous Captain Shorts and a companion were wandering the shores of Okanagan Lake when they made a startling discovery; partly submerged in a few feet of water was the vertebrae of some enormous sea creature. The two men brought the bone to Leonard Norris, a government agent in Vernon, who, many years later, had it sent it to the University of British Columbia for identification. It was determined to be a whale bone, brought into the valley by human means, but how it came to be lying abandoned in a rugged and unfrequented section of Okanagan Lake remains unknown.  

And long before the concept of “news” was even invented, the lake and its environs represented part of the territory of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation, and stood as a silent witness to all the little anomalies of human life. 

 

Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator