Coun. Shelley Witzky of the Adams Lake Band, Nekonlith Band Coun. Louis Thomas, the Shuswap Trail Alliance’s Sutra Brett, and Splatsin Band Coun. Doug Thomas (missing) are working together to build support for Secwepemc landmarks project. (Photo contributed)

City supports landmark proposal in spirit of reconciliation

Shuswap collaboration aims to create awareness of Secwepemc traditional territory

Local First Nations and the Shuswap Trail Alliance are gaining ground with a project that will place landmarks throughout the region pointing to places of geographical, historical and cultural significance.

At their regular meeting last Monday, Salmon Arm’s mayor and council received a presentation about the project from Neskonlith Band Coun. Louis Thomas and Shuswap Trail Alliance technical specialist Sutra Brett.

Thomas spoke briefly, noting most of the local bands are already on board with the project and asking for city council’s support.

Brett said the idea for the project came from images he found of mountain finder signage in Switzerland. The signs consist of a metal post with numerous hollow metal tubes attached, each pointing to a local peak or place of importance that is marked on, and can be seen through the individual tubes. This got him thinking about how such signage might work in the Shuswap.

“I actually heard about a bunch of Secwepemc landmarks that they used to use…, they honoured coyote in many ways with the shape of them, and they were trying to bring them back and get people to see these and their presence in the landscape, and I was thinking about how we could combine the two,” said Brett.

Related: Exhibition shares stories of Secwepemc culture

Brett wound up sharing the concept with Coun. Shelley Witzky of the Adams Lake Indian Band, and it grew from placing a single “cardinal” landmark in a central location to having additional “sentinel” landmarks placed on local mountain peaks.

Brett said each landmark would be designed in the spirit of reconciliation through a collaboration of cultures.

“The trick about them is we actually want to use First Nations and settler artists to create these, like a bit of a reconciliation piece, where they’re actually going to work together to figure out the designs… that best represent both nations and how they work together, and then we put them in place,” said Brett.

Related: Column: Understanding the Secwepemc world – a book review

Names of locations used on the landmark signs would be in Secwepemc and English, and the signs would be designed to “represent and blend with the landscapes they sit within.”

Brett was pleased to announce the local bands, through the Sexqeltkemc te Secwepemc, have already secured $30,000 for the project, and the plan now is to pursue additional BC Rural Dividend funding for the creation and placement of additional sentinels.

Related: Secwepemc history featured on new sign

Brett and Thomas had a few requests for Salmon Arm council. One, they asked that council support placing the first cardinal landmark in Marine Peace Park. He also asked that council provide a letter of support as well as financial support, between $1,000 and $2,000, that could be used with the $30,000 to leverage support through the BC Rural Dividend Fund.

Council had no qualms with any of the requests, approving the location and agreeing to provide a letter and $1,500.

“To me, this is an ideal location and a great idea, and what better for our Marine Peace Park than an example of reconciliation and working together,” commented Coun. Kevin Flynn.


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

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Tabletop models show what the landmark signs look like in Switzerland (left), and how local signs might appear. (Photo contributed)

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