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Water Creatures | The Students of Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School

It’s with great pleasure that the Penticton Art Gallery once again partners with the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School to showcase artwork by the school’s students. Located on the Penticton Indian Band Reserve, the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School features breathtaking views of both Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake, serving approximately eighty students from junior kindergarten to grade eight. In addition to providing the students with a provincially recognized curriculum, the school also offers a strong Nsyilxen language and culture program.  This welcoming school environment encourages students to connect with their cultural roots and traditions.

Designed by the Iredale Group, the building is an architectural masterpiece featuring state-of-the-art technology. When designing the building the architects design brief required that the building grow from the landscape with the colour palette and soft curvaceous forms evoking the textures, patterns and colours found in the surrounding hillside. Organic forms continue throughout the interior. The cultural education space take their form from a modern interpretation of the typical pit house cross-section culminating in a dramatic atrium, dedicated to teaching the Okanagan People’s language history and art.

The cultural school’s teachers, as well as following standard B.C. curriculum, also teach the students their native language and Okanagan hand-drumming songs. The students also regularly take part in traditional activities such as root digging, medicine gathering and sweats. By creating an environment that balances the past with the present, the band has created an incredible cultural legacy for the community’s children that will pay dividends for generations to come.

Last year’s exhibition was a tremendous success providing the citizens of Penticton the rare opportunity to look at the Okanagan landscape through the eyes of the children of the Syilx People. Be it nature or nurture, it’s hard to deny the inherent connection and intimate understanding these children have with the land and its inhabitants which isreflected in their artwork. It is exciting to see this relationship develop and these children have become cultural ambassadors, promoting and sharing their heritage to foster a greater understanding of the Syilx People and the landscape we all inhabit.

I would like to thank Michele Woitzik, administrator of the Outma Sqilx’w Cultural School along with the teachers and staff for their continued belief and support of this project and the unique cultural opportunities it creates for these students. Thanks also to Chief Jonathan Kruger and the members of the Penticton Indian Band. Finally, many thanks go to the children for sharing their artwork without which this exhibition would not have been possible. Way' limləmt.