The possibility of the new Upper Mission middle school being named Ki-Low-Na from the traditional Syilx Indigenous language would be embraced by the Westbank First Nation.
WFN Chief Roxanne Lindley said she was recently made aware that Ki-Low-Na along with Myra Canyon and Canyon Falls are the three names under consideration for the new school.
“When I received a call about that I was really excited to hear that was a possibility. What a wonderful step forward that would be for us to see, whoever thought of it,” Lindley said.
The trio of names were whittled down from an online survey that closed Sept. 29 asking for public suggestions.
The top choice was Schooly McSchoolface, which was a play on words from a 2016 British contest for the sarcastic winner Boaty McBoatface for the name of a new polar research ship.
A public forum on the new school held Monday also garnered more public feedback on the three name finalists.
Lindley said she applauds any steps made to recognize Indigenous culture, calling it positive step in the reconciliation process.
“When it comes to possibly naming a building, particularly one like a school that deals with children and with education, you look at that and say, ‘Wow, that is really reconciliation,'” she said.
The new school will serve Grade 6 to 8 students, with construction starting in the fall.
Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said the new name should reflect the area and its residents, to increase a community’s sense of ownership and identification with the school.
Kevin Kaardal, superindentent/CEO of Okanagan Public Schools, added it’s important to name the school early in the process.
“Naming the school prior to its opening guides all of us,” Kaardal said. “Having a permanent name in place during construction helps us plan with purpose and supports the development of a vision to meet the needs of every learner who will benefit from the new school.”
Lindley said she is encouraged by the recognition and respect shown by local governments by acknowledging formal meetings are held on traditional Syilx territory.
Last week, the Regional District of Central Okanagan board adopted a resolution of recognition already followed by the school board, local municipal councils and the Interior Health board.
That resolution calls for the RDCO board or committee meetings to begin with the chair stating: “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional territory of the Syilx/Okanagan Peoples.”
For the WFN, such acknowledgements are not taken lightly, Lindley noted.
“I’m always encouraged to hear something like that. Our voice is important and it has led to us having good working relationships at various municipal and provincial government levels and we continue to want to step forward on that,” Lindley said.
One of those next steps, she noted, would for the non-voting representative on the RDCO board from the WFN to actually have a vote.