The municipality of Summerland does not have a formal event in place at present to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, but Mayor Doug Holmes says the municipal government is working with the Penticton Indian Band and local First Nations.
“Rather than the District deciding what’s best for Indigenous people and manufacturing an event, I believe true reconciliation behooves us to ask our Indigenous neighbours what’s important to them and how we can be of help,” he said.
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was initiated in 2021. At that time, the Penticton Indian Band chose not to recognize the day.
“For years, we have heard the same statements and promises being made and yet everything remains status quo,” Chief Greg Gabriel said at the time. ”We as a people have struggled and continue to suffer from the effects of colonialism forced onto us by the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada. We hope that all citizens look at ways to educate themselves on the true history of what we as a people continue to struggle with.”
Holmes said he has reached out to the band and is awaiting a response.
While no plans are in place for a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation event in Summerland, Holmes said the municipality is working with Indigenous organizations in the area.
“Meaningful collaboration to support truth and reconciliation is one of council’s key priorities and in recent years there has been a healthy evolution of the municipal relationship with local First Nations,” he said.
He added that the municipality has been participating in Syilx cultural awareness training and workshops to build an understanding of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The municipality is also working with the Penticton Indian Band and the Okanagan Nation Alliance on a number of initiatives, including a project using traditional ecological knowledge to restore mainstem river and floodplain habitat at Trout Creek.
The municipality is also involved regionally in an Okanagan Nation Alliance initiative to build a framework for a kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Strategy.
The Syilx Water Declaration is on display in Summerland’s council chambers, along with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Syilx interpretive signage is installed on Giant’s Head Mountain and other locations.
Bylaw officers from Summerland and guardians with the Penticton Indian Band are working together to address illegal dumping and trespassing on lands on and near the reserve.
The Summerland Fire Department has assisted the band’s fire department with equipment and the two fire departments are planning a joint training event in Summerland.
The community of Summerland was also one of the major sponsors of the Pow Wow Between the Lakes earlier this year. The even had the theme of “Healing the Nation through Reconciliation.”
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