History growing on campus

First Nation history will be blossoming at a local campus this summer.

Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus will be home to a unique green space containing more than 50 Okanagan plants that are of cultural significance to Syilx people.

The na’Ê”k’Ê·ulamÉ™n (na - kool - a- min) garden will pay tribute to the close relationship between indigenous people and the natural world.

Na’Ê”k’Ê·ulamÉ™n is a Nsyilxcen word which broadly translates to “the things that we do.”

It was chosen to reflect the holistic relationship indigenous people have with plants, encompassing maintenance of the land, values, beliefs, practices and protocol in relation to the natural world.

“This relationship we have with each other and the natural environment is rooted in being respectful and thankful,” said Anthony Isaac, aboriginal services co-ordinator at Okanagan College. “We make offerings before we harvest, saying our thanks to the plants or animals for giving their lives for us and never taking too much.”

Education and awareness are key goals of the project.

Located north of the Centre for Learning building, the 6,000-square-foot garden will provide an experiential educational opportunity for everyone.

The project may serve as a model for similar campus and community gardens around the world.

“The garden will be a welcoming and inclusive space that strengthens the indigenous presence on campus,” said Isaac.

To ensure indigenous history and culture is depicted accurately, the college is working closely with local elders, historians and members of surrounding first nations communities.

“As Syilx/Okanagan people, we have always had a very deep connection with the land and all its resources,” said Jordan Coble, cultural and operations administrator for the SncÉ™wips Heritage Museum. “It is our responsibility to care for the land and in this way we establish deep relationships where we learn to understand the connections that bind us together. As Okanagan people, we strive to ensure our land and resources remain healthy for our future generations.”

The garden is slated to open in July.

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