Canada 150 project focuses on black cottonwoods

The tree, at risk of endangerment, is culturally significant for Okanagan’s indigenous community

The black cottonwood tree will be the anchor for a Canada 150 event being put on by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, with federal funding for the project announced on Friday.

With that funding from Heritage Canada, the Community to Community “Growing Strong Together Riparian Restoration” project will band the RDOS with the Okanagan Nation Alliance; the En’Owkin Centre – Okanagan Indian Educational Resources Society; School District 67 and the University of British Columbia.

The project will be celebrating the Okanagan’s landscapes, with a particular focus on the black cottonwood forests.

“The project will commemorate the shared resources of land and water, paving the way forward to a more sustainable future for the South Okangan,” the RDOS said in a news release.

“The black cottonwood (mulx) of the Southern Interior holds cultural significance to Syilix Okanagan Peoples and provides key habitat to a large number of endangered species. Cottonwood ecosystems are, themselves, critically at risk.”

Youth and community members will plant 150 cottonwood trees in 10 riparian areas throughout the area. While it’s intended to contribute some to environmental stewardship in the Okanagan waterways, it also provides an opportunity to educate the community of the importance of the local ecosystem.

The project will start in the classroom with preparations for planting and discussions on the black cottonwood ecosystem’s function and the tree’s role in indigenous culture.

The RDOS and its partners will be holding a project overview during the Aboriginal Week Celebrations and installations at the Shatford Centre at 760 Main Street, Penticton.

Those events will begin at 4 p.m. next Wednesday.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings will be joining the RDOS for a formal launch of the regional district’s Canada 150 project at a later, unspecified date.