Wednesday’s ceremony on the Okanagan Indian Reserve is a clear indication of how far we have come as a society and a community.
Aboriginals and non-aboriginals, elders and children, came together to mark the construction of a traditional Okanagan pit house, the first built in 200 years.
“This is a symbol of what can be accomplished in an environment of mutual understanding and respect,” said Bill Turanski, chairperson of the Vernon School District, which participated in the project with the Okanagan Indian Band and the First Nations Friendship Centre.
The simple fact that educators and First Nations leaders came together is an accomplishment in itself, particularly given the sad history of residential schools and the distrust many natives had for the education system as a result.
There was a time when those of us in the non-native community didn’t want to know about First Nations neighbours. There wasn’t an acceptance of a distinct culture that existed long before our ancestors arrived in the Okanagan.
Much is often said about how aboriginals have suffered from previous government policies that separated them from their language and traditions. But we in the broader community have also lost. We have been ignorant of the richness around us.
While challenges still exist for First Nations, including poverty, unemployment and substance abuse, the co-operation of the pit house provides all of us with optimism.
With all of us at the table and a mutual respect for each other, we can roll up our sleeves and constructively find a solution to those problems.
– Vernon Morning Star