Even dark skies couldn’t dampen the festivities at the Indigenous People’s Day Celebration at Cpelmétkwe Ranch (Bridge Creek Ranch) last Wednesday (June 21).
Drumming and song filled the air as people visited around tables set under a tent. Food and drinks were shared and as the first raindrops splattered into the dirt, an umbrella became the highly sought-after prize in a spirited game of Indian Bingo.
The purpose behind the event was to bring the community together with the Canim Lake Band members and to celebrate the ranch and the direction the band and community are going toward truth and reconciliation, said Lauralee Bennett, CAO for the band.
“There’s a lot of really great things happening in terms of growth and progressive expansion for the people of Canim Lake and this is just one way that we can start to share the rich culture and the language and the activities and the fun that comes with Tsq’escen’ people,” she said. “This territory is rich in that culture and the songs and the colours and all of those things.”
The afternoon event was the second of the day to be hosted by the band. In the morning, students from 100 Mile Elementary, Lac La Hache Elementary, Forest Grove and Horse Lake Elementary schools were invited to the Eliza Archie Memorial School for a morning of fun.
“They all had so much fun. They played on bouncy castles and they played Indigenous Bingo and Lahal and they had so much fun just intermingling and sharing their culture and that brings such a sense of pride to the Tsq’escen’ people when they’re able to share and be together like that,” said Bennett. “I saw so many kids come up to me and they’re like, ‘Look at the little canoe I made, the little drum’ and they were so excited.”
Kukip7 (Chief) Helen Henderson said she has felt a shift in her community’s relationship with its neigbours over the past couple of years.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we just wanted to regain connection to our territory, regain connection to each other, and strengthen our relationship with our neighbours who we consider our allies in our territory. Strengthening those bonds because we know that moving forward, everyone is here to stay and we have to relate well to one another.”
Henderson said there will be times when difficult conversations need to be had and that her community is willing to have. In this era of truth and reconciliation, 100 Mile House is on the precipice of taking those major and meaningful steps and conversations, she said.
Henderson added the District is talking about truth and reconciliation and installing orange sidewalks. She also said their community has an eye on what was done in Williams Lake to incorporate the Williams Lake First Nation.
“When you look at 100 Mile, take a look around and see where our footprint is, where our culture is – where is it that you can see Tsq’escen’ in 100 Mile? And if you can’t, then it is something that needs to be addressed.”
Henderson indicated the land behind her. Her people used to camp there when the rodeo happened, so acquiring the ranch is special and powerful for their people. She described it as a small yet huge step towards reconciliation.
“Things like this,” she said, looking at the people around her, “tells our community of Canim Lake that 100 Mile House is also ready for reconciliaction. Implementing that means that we’ll have a bigger presence in 100 Mile.”