Penticton summer starts with celebration

The Penticton Indian Band and Ooknakane Friendship Centre partner to create a day of celebrations for National Aboriginal Day

Dancer Rod Sheena of Merritt performs at the demonstration Pow Wow at Okanagan Lake Park during a previous National Aboriginal Day Celebration.

Dancer Rod Sheena of Merritt performs at the demonstration Pow Wow at Okanagan Lake Park during a previous National Aboriginal Day Celebration.

The first day of summer promises to be a busy day.

That’s because it is also National Aboriginal Day and the Penticton Indian Band and Ooknakane Friendship Centre are once again teaming up to offer a day of entertainment and celebrations.

“There is a lot going on, it’s amazing. To try to fit it all in one poster was quite the task,” said Kym Gouchie, one of the event organizers. That includes a special annual event at the En’owkin Centre, which Gouchie said is a perfect start to the day, though it is a separate celebration from the rest of the day.

At 5 a.m., the En’owkin holds a Summer Solstice Sunrise Ceremony, open to anyone who wishes to participate and celebrate the sunrise, join in the drumming and singing and share a dish at the potluck breakfast.

The National Aboriginal Day celebrations begin soon after, with a pancake breakfast in the band hall and preparations for the eighth annual run/walk along the river channel in support of the B.C. Cancer Society. The race features Steve King as announcer and starts at 9:30 a.m. with 2.5, 5 and 10 km. distances.

The official opening ceremonies start at noon in the PIB ball park with Chief Jonathan Kruger and invited dignitaries. Drumming, singing and dancing will kick off the festivities and a long lineup of entertainment.

“We can’t have aboriginal day without some dancing, so we are having the High Water Singers coming from Keremeos,” said Gouchie, adding that the drum group has developed an international reputation, including singing and representing Canada in an international gathering in Chile recently.

“They have gained a lot of recognition of the powwow trail. It really is the drum group that brings the dancers, so if somebody knows the High Water Singers are there, they are going to take that extra time to make a point of being there to dance.”

The drum group is just part of a long list of Okanagan entertainers who will be performing throughout the day, including Shayna Desjarlais, Anona Kampe, The Golden Eagle Band, Sam Mitchell, Floyd Vedan, Aimee Lezard, Warren Hooley, Toni Gallicano George and Russell Podgurny.

“He’s kind of a one man show, he is a singer, a traditional dancer; he’s bringing in a couple of painted tipis and one of them is going to be used for demonstration,” said Gouchie, adding that Podgurny will also be talking about the teachings contained in the construction and design of the tipi.

Other special events for the day include a model building contest inside the band hall. Competitors will be given a work station with a supply of natural materials and asked to construct a scaled down version of a traditional pit house.

“Then we have a ball hockey tournament and I believe some of the Penticton Vees have expressed an interest to come and either join a team or put one together,” said Gouchie. Later in the day, there will be a demonstration of another traditional sport as representatives from Penticton Minor Lacrosse association drop by at 4 p.m. for a demonstration as well as a pick up game with audience members that want to participate.

And, of course, there will be food, both from vendors all day, as well as a salmon barbecue during the dinner hour.

“That is going to be managed by the staff of the Little Paws Preschool and all the proceeds will go to them,” said Gouchie. “There is going to be lots of food vendors, arts and crafts vendors. We are just trying to have something for everyone.”

The celebration has been growing year by year, something Gouchie attributes to the ongoing partnership between the PIB and the friendship centre, along with other groups joining in.

“It really is a collaboration of a lot of different groups that work in the community,” she said. “We have also gained the support of the Southern Okanagan nation member bands, Upper and Lower Similkameen and Osoyoos. So we do get financial contributions from them and we extend invitations to them to celebrate here.

“We are hoping that is going to grow in capacity as well. Just the fact that everybody is working together is amazing.”

“We are looking forward to hosting National Aboriginal Day in our community and we’re happy to be working together with the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in the planning of this awesome annual event,” said Chief Kruger. “I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I really hope that one day National Aboriginal Day will be recognized and honoured as a statutory holiday for all Canadians.”

“We do our best to let this be known It is an invitation everyone,” said Gouchie. “It is the coming together of not only the Okanagan Nation bands and communities, it is also an invitation to the general public to come, celebrate and witness the rich culture that we have.”