Traditional games unite students

Students learn about their culture during ninth annual Track Meet and Traditional Games



Tyrone Kruger enjoyed learning about his native culture during the ninth annual Track Meet and Traditional Games held at Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School in Penticton May 24.

Kruger was among nearly 250 students between the ages of five and 14 from four cultural schools that participated in running events such as the 50, 100, 200 and 800-metre distance as well as the 4×50-m relay. What sets this event apart from typical track meets was the traditional games component. Each of the skills in the traditional games (gaffing, rope toss, hide pull, rock throw and archery) have been passed down for centuries in local Okanagan culture.

Kruger liked the archery and rock throwing despite his failed attempts to knock a milk jug off the chair. Caitlin Kruger also enjoyed the traditional side. She was able to knock the jug off. The skill in perfecting the velocity and aim is used to hunt rabbit or grouse.

“I liked the one where you throw the bean bag,” said Caitlin.

Sierra Michelle, who had her face painted like a warrior, liked the fishing game. Using a large stick, with a  wooden fish hook tied, students teamed up in pairs to catch the fish and transport it to another hoop simulating how salmon have been traditionally harvested, requiring dexterity, timing and balance.

“They are just fun and I can learn more things,” said Michelle on why she liked the traditional games more.

Maynard McRae, principal of Sensiyusten in West Kelowna, said the event is a great way to bring the schools together, which doesn’t happen often.

“It’s a fun day for the kids,” said McRae. “The most important part is the traditional games. The kids get to participate in some of the activities that would have been done a long time ago. Prepare them whether they are hunting skills or gathering skills.”

Marlene Johnson, a special education teacher with the Okanagan Indian Band, said the five and six-year-old kids enjoyed themselves with the obstacle course.

“The older ones, we’re so proud of their accomplishments,” said Johnson. “I saw some kids that really shone that don’t normally shine in the sports events and they really went well with it. No.1 it is teaching some of their culture. It’s a great opportunity to socialize.”

Students goofed around between their turns in games and enjoyed interacting with each other.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Tyrone, who is familiar with some of the visiting students but also developed new friendships.

Caitlin described the interaction as interesting while Michelle was excited by it.

Outma teacher Arnold Baptiste said the annual track meet builds relationship between the communities of Penticton (Outma), West Kelowna, Oliver (SenPokChin) and Keremeos (Lower Similkameen Indian Band) where the schools are from.

“We do this to help reinforce families, knowledge about our peoples background,” he said, adding that the traditional games are part of the commitment to the cultural schools. “Every year it’s awesome. I look forward to it every year.”

Next year SenPokChin in Oliver will host the 10th annual Track Meet and Traditional Games.