April 19, 2021 - The Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Society (OIMAS) recently announced the $10k grand prize winner for an Artistic Mural Installation and Beautification Project in partnership with Kelowna's Gospel Mission. “The artistic mural installation is meant to be a reflection of the internal work that the Kelowna’s Gospel Mission is doing at decolonizing the mission,” says Jenny Money, WFN Member and President of OIMAS.

Congratulations to all artists for their amazing submissions, congratulations to the Okanagan Indigenous Music and Arts Society and the Kelowna Gospel Mission for a successful community building project, and a special congratulations to the young syilx artist, Sheldon Pierre Louis, of ‘Bound by a Feathers Design’, for his winning submission, titled, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine”, which will soon be painted on the back of the downtown Gospel Mission at 259 Leon Ave, Kelowna.

“This piece is a representation of the resiliency of our syilx peoples, it is a testament to the strength and determination of our peoples to exist. This piece tells three stories that in ways intertwine with each other through communal and familial ties. The main figure of a syilx woman standing in the center is of my late Aunty twi Lucy Louis. She was one of three influential people in my path as an artist, she inspired me at the age of six to become the artist I am today. She continued that support and belief through my life, and she continues to support and uplift my leadership and artistic paths even though she is gone. To her left is another family relation and community member Billie Kruger (Marchand), she herself is an artist, and an author. The image of Billie shows her kneeling at the water’s edge releasing some salmon fry, as part of our Okanagan Nation Alliance initiative to revive salmon stocks in the Okanagan. The idea of the salmon themselves speaks to the resiliency of our people, the journey they must take every four years to return is unimaginable and yet is filled with hope and belief. A true testament to resiliency. These salmon are the life blood of our peoples, as we occupied much of the Columbia Basin we are salmon peoples and that connection and resiliency is carried on through us and our endeavours to bring the salmon back to the people as it is told in our captikʷł. The image to me speaks to the idea of calling back those old ways and calling back ourselves as we call back the salmon. On the right is one of my newest nieces, Irene Wheeler (Louis), who was named after our Grandmother Irene Louis, who is also the Aunt to my Aunty Lucy. I have added Baby Irene as she represents the babies, the young ones. Aunty Lucy always mentioned and shared messages of remembering the babies and the young ones when we are making decisions in life as they will carry the impacts of our decisions. I have depicted Baby Irene in a orange shirt and the words Every Child Matters to speak to the impacts of residential schools on our peoples. Again, the resiliency of our peoples to endure such horrific experiences within those schools. The intent was to “kill the Indian save the man” to assimilate. Although we are still healing and still doing the personal and family work needed to address and heal from those schools we are still here today. As we unlearn the harmful teachings that were embedded through those schools we are also relearning more loving and cultural ways to parent so that we can break those cycles. It is this new generation of babies that bring new hope to overcoming the impacts of Residential Schools. I have chosen to have 3 female figures to represent the different phases of life and to represent the strength and beauty of our women. To show the cultural resilience that is carried forward by our women. As our indigenous woman face the MMIW2 crisis it is important to always lift up and remember our women, our matriarchs. I have added two female tuma (grandmother) spirits I the background watching over the women and the baby. To signify the strength of our women and the spiritual connection. The salmon on the boarder are representative of the resilience and the path forward. No matter how hard the work is we will continue to journey forward. This is how I see the possibility for reconciliation through doing the hard work, fighting against the flow, and being determined to reach our destination.” ~ Sheldon Pierre Louis

For more information or to view the other artist submissions, visit the OIMAS on Facebook at www.facebook.com/okanaganfestival