In 2017, K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn was created when a small group of employees and students from Okanagan College and the Dennis Family began gathering traditional plants and medicines from the Similkameen territory. Elder Theresa Dennis granted the permission required to gather and harvest from this land within the Syilx/Okanagan Nation.
The first plants and medicine came from the soil of the Similkameen territory in the Paul Creek and Ashnola area. The team harvested over 30 plants including bitter root, Indian potatoes, Saskatoon berry bush, and more. Additional harvesting took place in 2018 at Silver Star and Head of the Lake and included the gathering of wild huckleberries, soap berry, sunflowers and more Indian potatoes.
On weekends and evenings, our team spent many hours clearing brush and overgrowth to prepare for the arrival of our medicines and plants. We made garden beds from recycled materials and transplanted soil from the Similkameen land so our medicines and plants could transition to their new home with ease and comfort. We carefully planned our garden as we know our medicine plants thrive when placed next to their companion plants (for example, the sage bush protects bitterroot from certain bugs eating away at the bitterroot stem).
K’nmaĺka Sәnqâĺten is a wonderful combination of plant diversity and traditional medicines. In May and June, the flowers and Indigenous plants are in full bloom providing a beautiful and colorful aspect to a visitor’s experience!
Guests will leave the garden shared knowledge of the Syilx Okanagan people and their connection to the land, the uses of traditional plants, and an understanding of Syilx ceremony, traditions and oral history.
For many generations, Kalamalka Lake and its surroundings were sites where our Syilx ancestors – our late grandfathers and mothers – lived, sənt’ixmən (harvested) and hunted in preparation for the winter. Several winter camps were located just below K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn.
K’nmaĺka means a cultural name of an elder who named the lake and beach
Sәnqâĺtәn means a place to plant food and herbs
K’nmaĺka? Sәnqâĺtәn - the word K’nmaĺka?, which Kalamalka Lake received its name after, is the name of an Okanagan/Syilx Chief who lived on the shores of the northern part of the lake. This area used to be part of the Okanagan Indian Band Reserve until Indian Agents and developers forcibly removed the reserve status under threat of imprisoning Chief K'nmaÍka? if he did not comply. Victor Antoine is an Okanagan Indian Band elder who is a living descendant of K’nmaĺka? and carries on his lineage. Victor often shares with others his story of the history of the Kalamalka Lake and he plays an instrumental role in language revitalization and reconciliation on the Okanagan Indian Band.
Acknowledgement and recognition is given to Theresa Dennis, an Elder from the lower Similkameen Indian Band, for providing the name and title of our medicine garden. Theresa was born and raised on the Okanagan Indian Band and is a fluent Syilx/Okanagan language teacher.
K’nmaĺka Sәnqâĺten (Kalamalka Garden) contains a full display of Indigenous plants harvested throughout the Okanagan territory by the Syilx Okanagan people. The Garden is a place of honor, respect, and passion that promotes the learnings of the ancestors located within the traditional Territory of the Okanagan Indian Band.
The Garden offers visitors a tour that celebrates local Indigenous history, stewardship of the land, and the importance of the traditional culture. The tour will inspire people to connect with the local plants and the land of the Syilx people.
Learn how to say K’nmaĺka Sәnqâĺten (Kalamalka Garden) – click here