Fourth annual cleanup at Head of the Lake takes place April 17

Caring for the land

Cassidy Marchand is lining up industrial-sized garbage bags, recycling bags and hi-vis vests in preparation for the fourth annual Community Cleanup, which will take place on April 17 in Syilx territory on the Okanagan Indian Band.

Marchand, who is Syilx, Secwepemc and a member of the OKIB, launched the annual cleanup in 2016 when she was a student at Okanagan College.

In an Indigenous Studies class, she was asked to create a project that would contribute to her community.

She says she immediately thought of her grandfather, Gordon Marchand, and the walks he would take around Head of the Lake Road, cleaning up garbage and caring for the area as he went.

After a few years of this, his ball team joined him, Marchand said, and it became a collective community effort, so the story goes.

Marchand decided to carry on her grandfather’s tradition, inviting her classmates to join her in cleaning up garbage along Head of the Lake Road in the OKIB community. They grabbed their garbage bags and a truck and picked up “18 bags of garbage” from the area.

Since then, the community clean-up has become a significant part of how Marchand gives back to her home community.

“I started this project when I got in Indigenous Studies and was told to do something for the land in volunteer work, so I tried this, and haven’t stopped,” she writes on the Facebook event page.

But this year holds new weight and meaning as Marchand says the project will unite people during the difficulty of the ongoing pandemic protocols.

“I thought this would be a good way to get community members together again during a pandemic,” Marchand said.

This year’s clean-up will start at noon on April 17 in various locations throughout the community of OKIB IR#1.

Volunteers will be handing out industrial garbage and recycling bags, hi-vis vests, and water, says Marchand — and she welcomes other communities to take part.

When Marchand put the call out to the community for support this year, it was answered.

Businesses, families and friends have come together to support the initiative. People have offered to donate water bottles, and others are starting clean-ups in their own areas of the community.

Tupa’s Joint, an Indigenous cannabis dispensary in downtown Vernon, is giving a $500 donation, Marchand says.

Looking ahead, Marchand says she hopes the project continues to grow, and that maybe other communities will feel inspired to do the same.

“I hope to see more community members join it and jump on it. Let’s keep our community clean, that way when people from outside of our community come here, they respect it, because we respect our land,” says Marchand.

- IndigiNews

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