Nearly 100 students, Okanagan Indian Band elders and members from the community gathered around 6 Mile Creek on the traditional territory of the Okanagan – Syilx people for a special ceremony to release over 25,000 sockeye salmon fry.
Earlier this year, students from Mr. Ben Louis’ and Mr. Brian McDougall’s classes agreed to work along with Mrs. Kathy Morgan and Ms. Rhonda Phillip, the Aboriginal Support Workers from Alexis Park Elementary School. The team worked with the Okanagan Nation Alliance – FINS program and the Okanagan Indian Band to be the first school in the district to raise sockeye fry.
Students learned about the importance of protecting the environment, along with the cultural importance of salmon to the Okanagan – Syilx people. Mrs. Morgan was successful in applying for a $500 grant from the World Wildlife Fund called “Helping to Bring the Salmon Back” to support this initiative.
At school, all the students heard the captikwt (story system) of How Food Was Given. At the ceremony, Madeline Gregoire, a respected elder, lead the Salmon Ceremony, which included a prayer for the water, air and land, the students made a real connection with ntitiyix – Salmon – Chief of all the creatures that live in the water. Each person navigated the steep bank, taking great care to protect their fry until it was time to wish them well on their journey, with the hope that they would return one day.
The total sockeye fry released to date is 1.1 million into 6 Mile Creek and 4 million into Okanagan Lake.
Teachers said Alexis Park students will continue to enjoy every opportunity to learn more about the traditional ways of the Okanagan – Syilx people. The next big project is a school-wide outdoor art instillation recognizing “The Four Food Chiefs.”
“Limlemt (Thanks) to the Okanagan Nation Alliance – Fisheries Department and the Okanagan Indian Band for such a rich learning experience for our students,” wrote Maritza Reilly, communications director for school district No. 22, in a press release. “Limlemt to Mrs. Morgan and the Aboriginal Education Department for taking on the leadership role with this project. This initiative would not have been possible without their support.”
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