Located in south central British Columbia, Canada, the Okanagan Valley is home to Westbank First Nation, one of eight First Nation communities that comprise the Okanagan Nation.
The Okanagan (syilx) traditional territories extend from the south central interior of British Columbia to north central Washington State. The syilx are a division of the Interior Salish and speak the nsyilxcen language. They have inhabited the valley for thousands of years.
Sncewips Heritage Museum
Okanagan Nation Alliance
Syilx Language House
Public Art & Heritage Brochure
Nsyilxcən, an Interior Salish language, is the traditional language of Westbank First Nation and the syilx peoples of the Okanagan valley. According to the 2014 FPCC Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages, only 3.7% of the Okanagan Nation population (5,181) are fluent nsyilxcən speakers.
Nsyilxcen Language Stats FPCC
Throughout the Okanagan, steps are being taken to teach nsyilxcən to our youth. Nsyilxcən is now recognized as an official language and is taught throughout School District #23, as well as at Sensisyusten House of Learning, which is an elementary school in Westbank First Nation. Westbank First Nation sponsors the Syilx Language House Association, which coordinates a four-year Nsyilxcən language program. Two WFN Members are currently enrolled in the program.
Throughout the Okanagan, steps are being taken to teach nsyilxcən to our youth. Nsyilxcən is now recognized as an official language and is taught throughout School District #23, as well as at Sensisyusten House of Learning, which is an elementary school in Westbank First Nation.
The Westbank First Nation Public Art Committee (PAC) established the WFN Public Art Program in September 2014. The Program is a collaborative, collective, creative process between WFN, practicing artists, and community members. Public art creatively addresses the needs and aspirations of the WFN community while also acknowledging WFN and syilx/Okanagan heritage.
The PAC promotes syilx culture through the arts; provides advice and supports activities that advance public art; and administers a selection process for commissioning and/or purchasing public art.
Promote syilx culture through the encouragement of local artists and the display of art throughout the community, both on and off reserve.
Since September 2014, WFN and the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) have worked closely together to develop awareness about syilx language and culture through the installation of interpretive signs along park trails, including Glen Canyon, Kalamoir, Rose Valley, and (upcoming) Black Mountain / sntsk’il’nYn (including pictures). The new signs acknowledges the cultural significance of the lands by explaining the historical syilx usage of a specific area and providing the nsyilxcen translation of the trail’s current name (e.g. “Bitterroot” to “spitƛ̓əm”). The cost of this project was paid for by the RDCO.
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