Students from the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School will be sharing their artwork with the area in an exhibition at the Penticton Art Gallery opening on Friday.
While the school is a stones-throw away from Penticton, there are greater divisions between the reserve and the city than just the Parkway Channel, said Paul Crawford, curator and director of the Penticton Art Gallery.
“I would love to do something with the kids up there and just bridge that gap,” said Crawford. “I live by the channel too, and that channel is such a dividing force between them and us, and to me it’s always just boggled my mind. I’d love to find ways to build bridges between our community and their community, because it’s really just one community.”
To Crawford, this exhibition is the first step towards not building bridges, but also to evoking social change.
“They’ve got a much deeper significance to the plants and the animals and all that stuff, and I think that’s something that’s culturally ingrained within them,” said Crawford. “If we could just expand that and provide a greater insight into that world, then maybe we’d all have a greater appreciation of the landscape around us, and next time instead of ploughing over a rare ecosystem, we might look at it a little bit differently and think maybe let’s look at this how we can address land issues differently.
“I’m not expecting these kids to be the activists, but maybe the catalysts for us to look at things a little bit differently,” he added.
One such student is 10-year-old Skyler Kruger, whose picture “A view from Outma to Okanagan Lake” will be featured in the exhibition. Kruger is excited to be in the exhibition, and hopes people will like his work.
The cultural school’s teachers, as well as following standard B.C. curriculum, also teach the students their native language and Okanagan hand-drumming songs. The students also regularly take part in traditional activities such as root digging, medicine gathering and sweats.
The exhibition, opening on May 18 at 6 p.m., will be based upon the students Okanagan heritage, as well as indigenous plants and animals that are native to the Okanagan valley. As well, there will be a series of digital photographs depicting the students participating in culturally important acts of the Sqilx’w people.
Michele Woitzik, administrator of the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School, said she feels the exhibition is opening doors and creating cultural opportunities for her students.
“Both Paul (Crawford) and I hope that this is the beginning of a long-term relationship to both promote sharing of our heritage to foster a greater understanding of the Okanagan culture and to plan some project-based learning opportunities for our students.”