A trio of sculptures have been erected along the Pelmewash Parkway in Lake Country, each representing a different slice of the history of Indigenous peoples in the region.
The Lake Country Public Art Advisory Commission worked with two professional Indigenous Okanagan artists who created the new sculptures. Clint George, Syilx Artist from the Penticton Indian Band, and Les Louis, Syilx Artist from the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, combined their wood- and metal-working skills to design and create the towering structures.
The artists explained explained the concepts and significance of these sculptures, saying the Syilx people “have four food chiefs that have been a part of Syilx heritage since before our people came to be.”
“The Four Food Chiefs sculpture carries infinite meaning and reminds us to seek information about why preservation of our valleys, mountains, waters, and sky are so important.”
They also explained the meaning of the other two sculptures: “The Feather sculpture with the medicine wheel, sun/star blanket, and depictions of Okanagan pictographs integrates the importance of working in harmony with the settlers of our land. The Canoe sculpture reminds us of the importance of transportation, working together, and the story of traditional transportation networks of the Syilx people.”
The Four Food Chiefs sculpture can be found at the south end of Pelmewash Parkway; the Canoe sculpture is located at the mid-point of this route; and at the north end is the Feather sculpture.
“We are grateful to the artists who created these sculptures as reminders about how this area along Wood Lake was regularly used for many years by the Syilx people,” said Sharon McCoubrey, chairperson of the Public Art Advisory Commission. “We hope everyone will enjoy the beauty of these sculptures and will think of their meaning and significance.”
The wood poles carrying the Canoe are carved with pictographs from the Okanagan territory, while the burnished metal of the Four Food Chiefs reflects the changing light of the sun. The central open form of the Feather sculpture provides a visual portal towards picturesque background vistas.
“As the Okanagan Valley becomes more diverse and populated, it is important to remember the Syilx people, the original inhabitants of our land,” the artists said. “We are leaving artifacts for our future generations to be proud of and appreciate the fact we as Syilx people are being recognized in our traditional territory and are able to leave a footprint for all to see.”
Funding for the public art project was provided by the Lake Country Public Art Advisory Commission and Lake Country ArtWalk.