First Nations leader Brenda Baptiste has been appointed the Order of B.C. (Contributed)

First Nations leader Brenda Baptiste has been appointed the Order of B.C. (Contributed)

Osoyoos Indigenous leader appointed Order of B.C.

Brenda Baptiste driving force behind Osoyoos Indian Band’s Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

The driving force behind the success of the Osoyoos Indian Band’s Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre has been chosen to receive the Order of B.C., the province’s highest form of recognition.

Brenda Baptiste, the current chair of Indigenous Tourism BC, is among 16 people, including Dr. Bonnie Henry, who will receive the Order of B.C. at a ceremony in Victoria in December.

“Each one of this year’s Order of British Columbia recipients has made tremendous contributions to their communities,” said Premier John Horgan. “I want to extend my congratulations and honour them for their leadership and dedication as community leaders.”

In the late 1990s, the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), largely through the efforts of Chief Clarence Louie, established itself as an economic force in the South Okanagan.

At the same time, chief and council embarked on a feasibility for a cultural centre that would not only help preserve Syilx (Okanagan) culture, but present this cultural richness to the greater public.

In 2003, Baptiste was hired to coordinate the planning and operations for the $10 million first phase of the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

The OIB had limited financial resources to subsidize the cultural centre and decided to open it to the public to assist with financial operations and to celebrate Indigenous Sylix culture, a precursor for reconciliation.

The centre went on to win numerous awards and is now in a Phase 2 expansion, for which Baptiste is guiding the Indigenous story. The completion of this next phase will further anchor the centre as one of the leading cultural attractions in B.C.

READ MORE: Desert Cultural Centre creating heritage project

Following thesuccess with the NDCC, Brenda was elected to the board of the then Aboriginal Tourism BC, an organization of 12 members and one employee. It now has 500 members and 12 employees.

For Baptiste, three issues became evident: Indigenous cultural tourism would need to become not only an economic opportunity for B.C.’s Indigenous communities, but would provide “pride-of-nation” and a powerful path to reconciliation for Indigenous communities as they chose what cultural elements to protect and what to share and celebrate with visitors, ensuring cultural authenticity.

Baptiste worked in collaboration with a team to develop a blueprint for the growth of Indigenous cultural tourism in B.C., and the first of its kind in Canada. The strategy was the catalyst for growth in Indigenous cultural tourism.

Baptiste was also the director of the Aboriginal Business Showcase for the Four Host Nations during the 2010 Olympics. This venue hosted more than 500 Indigenous cultural businesses and artisans from across Canada. Recently, Baptiste led the coordination of a holistic cultural program for Indigenous inmates at the Okanagan Correction Centre.

Baptiste has implemented cultural events for those often in most need to build pride in their essence as a native person. She has implemented Syilx cultural programming, including spiritual counselling, smudging, singing and drumming, sweat house ceremonies, Syilx language and crafts.

To view the full bios of all the recipients click here.

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