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North Okanagan-Shuswap school district name to get Indigenous update

Secwépemctsín word to be added in acknowledgement of traditional territory
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District will soon have a new monicker as the board passed a motion to work with local indigenous groups to include a Secwépemctsín word in the name. (Black Press photo)

To better reflect being situated on traditional Secwépemc land, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District 83 (SD83) is pursuing a name change to include a meaningful Indigenous word.

In a report to the May 21 school board meeting, director of Indigenous education Chelsea Prince said that since the current name was first adopted in 1997 when the Armstrong-Spallumcheen and Shuswap school districts amalgamated, the Quelmúcw Education Council has been disappointed with it for a couple of reasons. She explained that though the Armstrong area is on territory jointly claimed by the Syilx Okanagan and Secwépemc peoples, the district as a whole is in the latter.

“Positioning ‘North Okanagan’ before ‘Shuswap’ may not have been intended as prioritizing one area over the other, but that is how it can be perceived,” Prince pointed out in the report. “In addition, the word ‘Shuswap’ is an outdated and historically incorrect term invented by settlers, which is really the word ‘Secwépemc’.”

She added, however, that the district has come a long way since then and have developed meaningful relationships with local First Nations, which includes Splatsin, Neskonlith, Skwlāx and Adams Lake, and identified reconciliation as a value in the strategic plan.

Splatsin education director Darrell Jones, who presented Prince’s report, agreed that progress has been made, though it hasn’t always been easy.

“I’ve been working for our band for a very long time, like 38 years, and… I was here when the amalgamation happened…,” he told the board. “I mean, I do recall where there was never a land acknowledgement at that time to where we are today.

“There’s many other things that the district has worked on, I’m not saying that it hasn’t, but it was also a bit of a grind.”

For the name change, Prince said the Quelmúcw Education Council has compiled a list of potential Secwépemctsín words to consider, and will narrow that down to a short list to be presented to elders and communities to “make sure that we’re capturing the right idea.”

“One consideration that we discussed at length was that whatever word that’s chosen, it doesn’t have to mean school, it doesn’t have to mean learning,” Prince explained. “It should have something to do with the partnership between the communities and school district and should be a word that people can learn to pronounce so that we adopt it and use it and feel comfortable using it.”

Trustee Tennile Lachmuth said she’d be happy to support the name change and made a motion that the board pursue a partnership with the four bands to change the district’s name to include a Secwépemctsín word or phrase, with that carried unanimously.

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About the Author: Heather Black

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