Students at the Sen'Pok'Chin cultural school got some first-hand experience on preparing hides and the traditions of the Syilx people this week.
The school teaches the Nsyilxcən language and provides cultural experiences like this one to the students from junior kindergarten to Grade 7,
“This fall because of COVID and the nature of the work that we do, just outside our school we have an outdoor classroom. The last two weeks have been spent on learning how to prepare hides,” said Kim Moffat, Okanagan language and culture coordinator at Sen'Pok'Chin.
All of the students have worked in some capacity on preparing and tanning hides with traditional Indigenous methods.
Amber Eustache (kʷkʷrisxn) of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, who mentored Moffat in the Nsyilxcən language, was the school’s cultural expert walking students through the process.
According to Moffat, the students loved the experience, and are taught the cultural significance of working with fire as well. Morning classes are responsible for getting fires going and chopping wood.
“Because we work outside we work with fire, there has been a whole teaching on how to be around fire when you’re in our outdoor classroom,” Moffat said. “It’s a workspace. All the kids have learned fire etiquette in the Okanagan way, where these are working fires. They are not for roasting marshmallows or poking sticks in these are fires that are meant to do work.”
Students are learning not only to the cultural practices of the Syilx people when it comes to preparing hides, but a wholistic education on the significance in the culture of working with the land as part of the Okanagan way, or sqəlxʷɬcawt.
"Our sparks of knowledge are about collective wisdom (pax̌pax̌t). Our knowledge will bring warmth and light to the group. The spark has to be fanned, stoking the fire, putting another log on the fire. Meaning the continuation of all our sqəlxʷɬcawt, circle never ends, no beginning or end, The importance of sharing and passing our knowledge on." Moffat said, explaining the significance of fire in sqəlxʷɬcawt.
Grade 5 student Dream Beauclaire said she learned how to build fires and scrape animal hides.
“I really loved that we got to be outside a lot and not be bossed around.”
Abi Wood, Grade 4, said they were lucky to have so many experiences.
“I loved everything, especially gutting the salmon and cooking it over the fire.”
Grade 2 pupil Credence Gabriel had this to say: “Oh man, it was awesome! Especially when we put salt on the hide and cooking the salmon.”
Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle