First Nations dancers Levi Bent (right) and son Leroi performed at last year’s Spirit North Festival at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre and are expected to return to this year’s event March 11. (File photo - Western News)

Celebrating Spirit North’s second season at Okanagan nordic centre

The Indigenous cross country ski program is having its year-end festival March 11 at Nickel Plate

Indigenous dancing on cross country skis.

That’s just one of the featured events scheduled for the season-ending Spirit North Festival March 11 at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre.

The well-known father and son First Nations dance team of Levi and Leroi Bent, who have become avid nordic skiers through the program, are set to perform on skis this year.

“They really love skiing and go up every weekend and they are going to do a similar thing to last year when they had full regalia but they’re going to have skis on this year and just regalia on top and we’re pretty excited about that,” said Perianne Jones, one of Spirit North’s instructors. “It will be much like last year, we will have some food and elders.

“I think we’ll have about 220 kids up there for the festival this year, I mean we thought were doing well last year with 150 kids so we’ll see if we can handle this many.”

This was the sophomore season for Spirit North at Nickel Plate after the Alberta-based, non-profit organization came into B.C. as part of a pilot project.

In addition to West Bench Elementary and the Penticton Indian Band’s (PIB) Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School, SenPokChin School of Oliver and the PIB alternative school also participated this year.

Related Sharing the voices of the mountains with Spirit North

The program was also expanded to West Kelowna this season as well and representatives from that program and elders may also be attending the festival.

“It went really well this year, it was all we could do to keep up which is really great,” said Jones. “We definitely had a lot more interest in skiing.

“Coming back this year to Nickel Plate it was like we never left, the kids just picked up where they left off. We were able to get more skiing in and less learning to ski, so that fun.”

In addition to the twice weekly daily programs there was also an after school component where kids skied with headlamps and enjoyed some pizza before heading down the mountain.

Related: Spirit of welcoming unveiled at Okanagan nordic centre

Through Spirit North kids and other family members can take lessons, get skis and use the facilities at no charge.

The program actually begins in the fall when instructors go to the different schools and start working with kids on fitness which includes things like cross country running.

The festival takes place from 10:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.


 

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Rose Caldwell, elder and language instructor for School District 67 performs the smudging ceremony at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre. (File photo - Western News)

Jordan Ray of Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School with one of the new dual language signs unveiled in November at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre. (File photo - Western News)

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