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Okanagan Indian Band’s new cultural arbor a community hub

The structure embodies ‘what we’ve taken for granted’ before the pandemic, said Chief Byron Louis

The Okanagan Indian Band is celebrating the return of a treasured community gathering space.

Construction of the OKIB’s new Cultural Arbor — which used reclaimed wood from the old structure that was decommissioned four years ago — wrapped up in 2020. With pandemic restrictions now eased, the OKIB invited the public to attend a day of events in Komasket Park Saturday, May 28.

“You look around here and it’s a real beautiful place for individual families, groups of families and gatherings,” OKIB Chief Byron Louis told the Morning Star.

The original arbor was commissioned in the late 1980s as a place for the OKIB community to gather as part of syilx practice, the band said in its announcement of the celebration.

Built by Enderby’s Sperlich Log Construction, the open-air, roofed building has bleacher-style seating in four tiers and can fit about 300 people, making it ideal for all sorts of events, from weddings to feasts and powwows.

There’s an openness that is integral to the structure’s design. It’s not a typical events centre that closes up behind lock and key during after-hours. There are no doors on the arbor, only an invitation to sit in the shade and have lunch, or a conversation.

The arbor, as Louis described, is not just an events centre; it’s a community hub.

“It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, that’s the beauty of something like this. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to come down,” Louis said. “People were even coming down in the winter time.”

For Louis, seeing the community enjoy the space has underlined “what we’ve taken for granted … before COVID.”

The land on which the arbor stands has historical significance. It’s an old Okanagan-syilx pre-contact village site. A few steps east of the structure is a traditional fishing site that’s still used today.

The celebration on Saturday began with a welcome from chief and council and an opening prayer and smudging ceremony. There was an Indian Taco lunch, a community fashion show, an artisinal market and a salmon dinner, capped off with some music and storytelling in the evening.

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

READ MORE: Syilx sounds kickstart Indigenous History Month at Vernon museum

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

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