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‘Building a sense of community’: Okanagan Indian Band unveils new cultural arbor

The band is hosting a celebration for the new structure, after its previous arbor was decommissioned in 2018
The Okanagan Indian Band is ready to officially unveil its new Cultural Arbor on Saturday, May 28, 2022. (OKIB photo)

All are welcome to join the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) in celebrating the return of a cultural hub for the community.

The band will showcase its newly constructed Cultural Arbor at Komasket Park on Saturday, May 28 at 10 a.m. It’s the return of a gathering space that hosts a medley of community and life events, as OKIB Chief Byron Louis underlined in a press release Thursday.

“The Cultural Arbor is the centre of our ceremonies and its an integral part of our community,” Louis said. “We use the arbor for all sort of events and celebrations, from gatherings to weddings to feasts and powwows. Many memories were made with the previous arbor and many great memories will be made here. It’s good to see the arbor rebuilt and in use.”

These events and more were held at the OKIB’s previous arbor for 30 years. The old arbor was decommissioned in 2018 as part of the band’s plan to address some safety concerns with the structure. The original arbor was said to be the “largest and most grand facility during the ‘80s in the syilx nation,” according to the band.

The location of both the new and the old arbors is an old Okanagan-syilx pre-contact village and fishing site. A traditional pit house was added to the park in 2009 in honour of this history, followed by the addition of a memorial recognizing the 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A cultural arbor is a circular, open-air, roofed structure built using large logs and timbers, many of which the band reclaimed from the original arbor.

Built by Enderby’s Sperlich Log Construction, the new OKIB arbor can fit about 300 people. The project’s construction was completed in fall 2020, but the band held off on hosting a celebration to allow for COVID-19 restrictions to ease.

“As OKIB moves towards easing social restrictions, this reopening will help foster a stronger sense of community for members to come together again and celebrate, honour, and enjoy the space,” reads the press release. “The arbor is a space which builds a sense of community, supports gathering, inspires health and wellbeing, and upholds the values of the OKIB community.”

The band thanked its corporate partners for ongoing support throughout the project’s development, including the B.C. Provincial Grant, B.C. Gaming OKIB fund, BC Hydro, Fortis Energy, the Firelight Group and the OKIB Language and Culture Program.

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Brendan Shykora
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The newly constructed arbor can fit 300 people and replaces the old structure that was decommissioned in 2018. (OKIB photo)

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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