Harry Robinson is one of several local Indigenous authors who will be featured during the fall season of the Okanagan Online Book Club. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives photo)

Okanagan book club opens new chapter of Indigenous history

Online club features six Indigenous books and authors

Staff and volunteers of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives have recently begun an intensive Cultural Safety Training program, led by Indigenous elders, Chris Marchand and Eric Mitchell.

“It’s the first step toward reconciliation and, we hope, further collaboration with the Sylix people of the Okanagan Nation,” GVMA executive director Steve Fleck said.

Program coordinator Laisha Rosnau adds: “Over the past several years, there’s been a groundswell of interest in the Indigenous history of the Okanagan, especially from teachers.”

Educators are often looking to the GVMA for artifacts, archival materials, and programs to help facilitate students gaining more knowledge in this area.

“We at the museum are in the position of being a predominantly white ‘settler’ staff facilitating learning the history of a rich culture and heritage that is not only not our own, but one which has been historically misrepresented and discriminated against,” Rosnau said.

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In conjunction with the learning process facilitated by Cultural Safety Training, GVMA is hosting and facilitating the Okanagan Online Book Club’s 2020/21 season focusing on Indigenous books and authors, to all who are interested.

The book club begins with 21 Things You Might Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph, on Nov. 19, then will read and discuss books by Okanagan Indigenous authors.

“We’ll read the stories of Harry Robinson, a traditional Okanagan storyteller, who Thomas King once described as ‘the most powerful storytelling voice in North America,’” Rosnau said.

Other books that the club will discuss will be Jeanette Armstrong’s seminal novel Slash, Gerry William’s The Women in the Trees, the newly released Calling My Spirit Back by Elaine Alec, and for April poetry month Sandra Lynxleg’s Glass Beads.

“We hope to encourage a greater understanding of both the history of the Sylix people of the Okanagan, and how both this history and contemporary culture informs Sylix literature, art, and culture,” Rosnau said.

All are welcome to join the Okanagan Online Book Club by signing up for links to articles, interviews, and additional material on each book and author. As well, they’ll be a monthly online meeting to discuss the books.

“We may even have a special guest author join us for one of the online discussions, but I won’t promise too much yet,” Rosnau said.

For more information and to join the Okanagan Online Book Club, visit www.vernonmuseum.ca/okanagan-book-club.

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