Arrow Lakes school board quietly updated their Indigenous land acknowledgement earlier this year to only include the Sinixt Nation.
Previously, the acknowledgment given before each district meeting, also referenced the Okanagan Band, Shuswap and Ktunaxa on neighbouring lands.
The decision to acknowledge just the one nation – the Sinixt – is an attempt to be more honest, said Superintendent Terry Taylor. The change came after consultation with the Sinixt.
“As educators, it’s our job to be as truthful as possible,” said Taylor.
According to the Revelstoke Museum and Archives, historical evidence suggests the area of Arrow Lakes is the traditional lands of the Sinixt, although other nations may have travelled through the area for trade.
“This is Sinixt territory, that is the truth,” Taylor said.
While the Canadian government declared the Sinixt extinct in 1956, the nation is anything but.
According to Marilyn James of the Sinixt, the nation currently numbers more than 6,000 people, making it similar in size to the City of Revelstoke.
A case determining whether or not the Sinixt have Indigenous rights in Canada was heard at the Supreme Court of Canada last fall. The court is expected to make a decision later this year.
Taylor said, as a settler, part of her responsibility is to unlearn and re-story from colonial frameworks for reconciliation. She pointed to Murray Sinclair’s famous quote, “Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.”
Sinclair was the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which produced a report for reconciliation in Canada in 2015 after hearing six years of testimony from more than 7,000 residential school survivors.
When Taylor first started teaching in Nakusp in 1983, she said no one told the history of the area through an Indigenous lens.
“We thought it was a barren landscape,” she said.
However, approximately 22 per cent of students in Arrow Lakes school district self-identity as Indigenous, which is significantly above the 12 per cent provincial average.
While Indigenous land acknowledgements might seem paltry, Shelly Boyd of the Sinixt said they are like tiny pebbles in a giant rock cairn.
The small stones may seem insignificant and unnoticed, wedged between larger rocks, but they provide stability and strength.
“Without tiny rocks the cairn will teeter and fall,” she said.
Boyd said words matter, especially for a nation that, according to the Canadian government, does not exist.
She said the Indigenous land acknowledgement change by SD 10 is a step in the right direction and agreed with Taylor that only specifying the Sinixt is more truthful.
“When everything is important, nothing is,” she said.
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