Quest Out West steeps itself in Okanagan’s historical culture

A local television producer has created a way to preserve the Syilxchen language while showcasing alluring local landscapes

During the filming of Quest Out West

During the filming of Quest Out West

A local television producer has created a way to preserve the n’syilxcen language while showcasing alluring local landscapes.

Tracy Kim Bonneau, wrote, produced and is the star of Quest Out West, which premieres on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network on Sept. 9.

“Each episode is its own episode and its own story,” she said. “Each location is its own story, and if you watch the entire series, you’ll get a feel for the beautiful South Okanagan which we really focused on for season one.”

Some filming locations include the Grist Mill, Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa, Convert Farms, the Penticton Indian Band community garden, and Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.

Bonneau developed the idea for the show while attending the 2010 Vancouver Olympics at a networking event through an Aboriginal pavilion.

“One of the things I wanted to present in this documentary series was the history of our food, the natural food we have within the Okanagan which comes from a historical, traditional and knowledge perspective from the Okanagan people.”

There are 13 episodes which are 30 minutes each.

In each episode, Bonneau is featured mingling with new and old friends in many different locations – from local farms and wineries to rural homesteads and the wilderness of the traditional Okanagan territory. Bonneau demonstrates traditional cooking ingredients and methods, and shares a rich history of the Okanagan.

“I noticed First Nations culinary chefs, and they were presenting these beautiful platters of buffalo and all kinds of wild food, but it was presented in a high-end reception style format,” she said. “I thought it was amazing – I thought, I should do a show about this.”

It took years for her to overcome many logistical challenges, but in the spring of 2014, Bonneau was finally able to produce the series –and spent two-and-a-half months filming. Post production was made especially long by presenting it in both English and n’syilxcen.

“It was a long, difficult process because we wanted to do this right. We wanted to use it as a true tool for our people, and also for the rest of the people living in the Okanagan who didn’t realize we have a beautiful indigenous language.”

The n’syilxcen language was traditionally passed onto the next generation orally, and Bonneau was adamant about writing a translated version of the show, as she worries that if it isn’t spoken fluently and regularly, the language could become obsolete during her lifetime.

“The translations were remarkably done by Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, who’s my mom, and my uncle Richard Armstrong, who teaches language and is a traditional ecological knowledge keeper.”

While the program regularly showcases Okanagan cuisine, Bonneau said it’s not a cooking show.

Quest Out West is a documentary series that talks about the history of the Okanagan – we happen to be cooking and eating because what I find is there’s only one way to know about our history, which is if we talk about it over food and conversation.”

She said each episode can be watched individually, though viewers will want to see the entire series.

“Each episode stands on its own, but its to the viewers benefit to watch them all.”

Quest Out West debuts on Sept. 9 and will air weekly on the ATPN at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, 1 p.m. on Thursdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We just have to get this launch off the ground and then we have to see how many people like it – this is the nerve-wracking part about being the producer.”