Learning about First Nations through Art and Culture
The Original People of the Okanagan Region
Lower Similkameen, Okanagan, Osoyoos, Penticton, Upper Similkameen, Westbank and the Upper Nicola nations in B.C., as well as the Colville nation in Washington are members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance in traditional Syilx speaking territories of this vast interior region.
Contemporary British Columbia
People of European and American descent arrived about 200 years ago, but the First Nations people have occupied traditional territories in this region for at least 11,000 years. (Muckle, 2014)
First Peoples are not one group or one culture. Their rich history, heritage and their important roles in contemporary British Columbia are highly valued and emphasized in the new Ministry of Education curriculum for children in British Columbia.
Art can play an important role in contributing to understanding, but in tourism and marketing, stereotypes may misrepresent First Nations art and culture.
The full meaning or even the utilitarian functions of traditional art forms may be lost or misunderstood outside of the culture that created them. The stories, the symbolism, the heraldic or ceremonial significance, and traditions may have been passed on from generation to generation within communities.
In our classrooms, hopefully, we can help to remove stereotypes and learn to ask questions. In our classrooms, hopefully, we can invite local community members to come and share their stories and teach “the beauty and wisdom of indigenous ways…[and even] garner support for cultural preservation.”(Zuk & Dalton, 2011)
Where do we start with change in B.C. schools?
Begin locally and in person whenever possible. Begin by considering context and meaning, always with respect and enthusiasm for learning.
Create meaningful activities considering diverse perspectives. One starting point is to learn about the First Nations Principles of Learning as published by the First Nations Education Steering Committee to support the new B.C. curriculum.
In art classes we have unique opportunities to make meaningful connections. We can encourage children to consider and apply First Nations perspectives to their own lives. We can also encourage children to ask questions, experiment with traditional materials and processes, consider contemporary social issues, and reach for greater levels of understanding and appreciation for their world.