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  • Writer's pictureVaagen Fibre Canada

Vaagen Partner Spotlight: Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre

At Vaagen Fibre Canada (Vaagen), forging partnerships that add value to the nearby rural communities is critical to the growth and prosperity of the company.

Our Midway mill is proud to hold a partnership with Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, a state-of-the-art interpretative centre with extensive indoor and outdoor exhibit galleries, education stations, two multimedia theatres, and various walking trails. The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is located on a 1,600-acre desert conservation area, considered the only desert in Canada.

Within this territory, the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) extends from the South Okanagan into the Boundary and Kootenay regions. Here in the hottest and driest part of Canada, Osoyoos Band members secure and share a legacy of hard work and respect for nature. The word Nk’Mip translates to “Bottomland” in English, and is located at the southern end of the Osoyoos reservation.

For Vaagen, the participation of the OIB is crucial in ensuring First Nations’ values and cultural knowledge are implemented in all forestry priorities. OIB and Vaagen’s collaborative work in forest management practices reflects a deep commitment to cultural preservation, plus sustainable, reliable access to fibre.

The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre celebrates the Band’s history and land and welcomes tourists to discover the stories, people, art, ecology, and wildlife of the area.

“The Osoyoos Indian Band wanted a place with purpose, where First Nation’s youth are inspired to learn more about our ancestors and elders who have carried on our traditions and kept our Okanagan nsyilxcen language, history, and culture alive,” explained Jenna Bower, Manager of the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

Visitors can see first-hand First Nation’s architecture and design, considered by the Band as a form of visual expression. The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is an eco-friendly building completed in 2006 and designed by Bruce Haden of Hotson, Bakker, and Boniface Haden, a Vancouver-based architecture and urban design firm.

The building is semi-underground, a design that reflects the traditional winter dwellings of the Okanagan First Nations and makes use of the insulating properties of the surrounding hillside. The construction has received top awards for its environmentally innovative architectural design.

As part of the outdoor displays, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre has over 1.5 km of desert walking trails that lead to a traditional village where visitors can peek inside a traditional Pit House (q̓ʷc̓iʔ). A Pit House is one of the traditional winter homes that the Okanagan People built.

“Although traditional Pit Houses aren't meant to last forever, we wanted this one to stand that test of time and was built to National Building Code standards,” noted Jenna.

Today, the Pit House serves as a space where the community comes together to practice traditions, class workshops, dinners, and dance performances, accommodating over 50 people.

Just recently, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre received a log donation from Vaagen, which were used to build the new q̓ʷc̓iʔ.

“This new q̓ʷc̓iʔ is a space where we can come together as a community to practice our traditions in a q̓ʷc̓iʔ once again,” Jenna noted. “It also allows us to speak with the youth and show them the types of tools our ancestors created.”

Many people were involved in making this q̓ʷc̓iʔ a success: the former Manager of the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre Charlotte Stringam, and the present Manager Jenna Bower, Chief Clarence Louie for the concept inspiration, and Osoyoos Indian Band Knowledge Keepers Ron Hall and Sheri Stelkia.

Additionally, some others who were involved were Councillor Ronnie McGinnis with the support of the OIB Council, Vaagen Fibre Canada, Mel Woolley from Land Strategies who provided planning coordination and fundraising, construction managers Panther Creative, land planners Connect Landscape Architecture, John Boys from Nicola Logworks, and Oliver Redi-Mix.

We raise our hands to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre for a remarkable job in sharing the rich culture of the Osoyoos Indian Band.

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