December 11, 2020 - Westbank First Nation (WFN) has honoured Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton for his efforts to support the access of Indigenous students to higher learning and Indigenization of the post-secondary system, as well as strengthening ties between WFN and the College.

Hamilton was surprised by a blanket wrapping ceremony, conducted virtually, December 10, 2020. “The blanket ceremony is our highest honour,” says y̓lmixʷm Chief Christopher Derickson. “It signifies our community’s tremendous respect for the recipient. It is seldom an honour accorded to someone outside the Nation.”

“WFN wanted to honour Jim for his work and commitments towards reconciliation,” says y̓lmixʷm Chief Derickson, who also served as Chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors, 2018-2019. “Long before the narrative around ‘reconciliation’ became fashionable, Jim was leading Okanagan College and encouraging provincial and national colleagues and organizations to realize that meaningful change was needed. I know firsthand that what Jim was advocating behind closed doors was identical to what he was saying and promoting publicly.” 

 The Pendleton blanket presented to Hamilton portrays a coyote howling at the sky, a grizzly fishing and also incorporates pictographs of an eagle and a kokanee skeleton, that symbolize the cycle of life and death. In each corner of the blanket is a WFN logo, which features a grizzly pawprint with a coyote silhouette in the middle and a serpent in the waves underneath, representing n’haitik (Ogopogo).

“I am truly honoured, totally surprised and greatly humbled by this unexpected recognition. I know how meaningful it is and could not be more grateful that Westbank First Nation considered me worthy,” noted Jim Hamilton. “I will always treasure the blanket as well as the special affinity I feel with the Westbank First Nation people. I especially want to thank the Council and Chief Chris Derickson, all of whom I hold in great regard. This is truly a high point in my life”