During the reporting of a story, The Narwhal’s Matt Simmons and photographer, Marty Clemens, made a mistake that resulted in a breach of protocol. Sigidimnak’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit (Amy Parent) said she wants others to learn from this and asked us to share what happened in a public way, to help us all collectively take a step forward. Photo by Marty Clemens
This story is a collaboration between IndigiNews and The Narwhal.
The Nisg̱a’a word for respect is kwhlix͟hoosa’anskw.
Driving up to Nisg̱a’a territory to bear witness to a ceremony and take part in a feast, I knew there was going to be a lot of media at the events and I was concerned I might see some extractive or disrespectful behaviour. As a non-Indigenous journalist who lives near Nisg̱a’a lands, I am committed to decolonizing my journalism and know how easy it is to make a mistake.
I was worried there would be a lack of kwhlix͟hoosa’anskw.
I’d spoken to Sigidimnak͟’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit, Amy Parent, a couple of weeks prior and she asked me to keep an eye out and gently step in if I saw any examples of that happening. But in the end, it was me.
Luu-giis n̓iiy̓, xts’iwaalhl wiliy̓is. I made a mistake, a bad mistake.
On Sept. 30, the day after the ceremony and feast, photographer Marty Clemens and I were taken inside a temporary structure in the village of Lax͟galts’ap to see the Wilps Ni’isjoohl pst’aan (totem pole) — an ancestor that had been brought back to Nisg̱a’a lands nearly a century after it was stolen from the village of Ank’idaa. Protocol specifies no one but family members of Wilps (House) Ni’isjoohl is allowed to touch the ancestor.
Standing next to the pst’aan, her hand resting gently on it, Nox̱s Ts’aawit answered a few questions and told me about the crests carved into the pole. Marty did his best to take photos in the confined space.
She was talking about clashing worldviews, settler-colonial impacts and the importance of people being willing to express vulnerability when I heard the sound of a ladder clattering behind me. I later learned that Marty had been standing on a small step ladder to get an overhead angle of the pole when it suddenly gave way under him. Instinctively, he stopped his fall by bracing himself on the pole. We were a team and I feel responsibility for what happened.
Moments later, everything was done — interview over, cameras away, everyone out. But for Nox̱s Ts’aawit, Sim’oogit (Chief) Ni’isjoohl and family members, it was not over. Protocol had been breached. Ceremony had to be held to cleanse the pole before it could be raised.
I often tell my kids mistakes are gifts; what comes after a mistake is made, the learning experience, is what matters most. Working at The Narwhal, we are deeply committed to decolonizing our work, minds and hearts, and this mistake is teaching us that it’s a journey, a process. Journeys are rarely linear and often they include moments of stumbling, faltering, making mistakes. We are still learning.
Reporting in Indigenous communities — especially for non-Indigenous journalists — comes with great responsibility and requires a lot of care. For too long, media has been entrenched in colonial ideas and historically has been used as a tool or weapon that privileges settler-colonial ways of thinking over Indigenous ways of being. Starting to address that imbalance means you need to learn about the people whose land you’re on: protocol, ceremony, expectations. You need to be mindful of who you are and where you’re coming from, and continually question what you might be consciously or unconsciously carrying with you. You need to be patient. And, most of all, you need to be respectful.
As Anishinaabe educator Duncan McCue noted in Decolonizing Journalism, building relationships with the Indigenous communities we report on can be complex and messy.
“There will be missteps and miscommunication,” he wrote. “But it’s all about building trust. Over time, the benefits will be apparent.”
As we drove away from Nisg̱a’a territory that afternoon, Marty expressed his deep regret and admitted he didn’t know what to do. We’ve since reached out to Nox̱s Ts’aawit to apologize and ask for guidance. We’re waiting to find out the protocol for our next steps. Whatever it takes, we want to make things right — and using this as a teachable moment is part of that process. Nox̱s Ts’aawit said she wants others to learn from this and asked me to share what happened in a public way, to help us all collectively take a step forward.
What happened was avoidable. I’m left thinking that sometimes it’s best to walk away without getting the beautiful photo or that perfect interview moment. Be patient and accept that building trust takes time. And when mistakes are made — and they are inevitable — sit in the hard and uncomfortable space of apology. Do what’s needed; ask if you don’t know.
The ancestor was cleansed and blessed and, on Oct. 3, it was successfully raised inside Hli G͟oothl Wilp-Adok͟shl Nisg̱a’a (Heart of Nisg͟a’a House Crests, also known as the Nisg̱a’a Museum) where it now stands in soil gathered from Ank’idaa.
To Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl, Sigidimnak͟’ Nox̱s Ts’aawit, and members of Wilps Ni’isjoohl, t’ooyak͟siỳ n̓isim̓ (thank you) and gwilks-at’itkws n̓iiy̓ loon (we apologize to you).
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SD67 career fair connects Indigenous students with professional mentors
During a career fair in “Penticton” last week, Indigenous secondary school students heard from 26 mentors working in different industries — giving the Youth an opportunity to learn about various professional pathways.
The event was the first-ever Indigenous Career Fair held by School District 67’s (SD67) Indigenous Parent Group, planned in collaboration with the district’s Indigenous Education Program and held at Princess Margaret Secondary School.
It aimed to bridge the gap between post-secondary aspirations and alternative career paths, and set Indigenous Youth up for success after high school.
The Youth learned about various industries from professionals including water technicians, Youth and family workers, teachers, artists and more.
Along with covering the event as a journalist on Nov. 16, I also represented my industry as a mentor, talking to the Youth in Grades 8 to 12 about my career as a freelance storyteller contributing to IndigiNews and Global Okanagan. I shared with them what it means to me to tell these impactful stories as a member of Penticton Indian Band (PIB).
Another of the mentors, Whitney Cardenas, is also a member of PIB and works for the nation’s fire department. She told me that before she became a firefighter, attended a similar career fair to explore different job paths.
Now, she is eager to encourage the next generation of Indigenous Youth who are trying to decide which career path to choose.
“I’m pretty proud of myself to be named as one of the Indigenous role models, and I’m excited to talk to the Youth and tell them why I do what I do,” said Cardenas.
“I’m here to help encourage them to know that there are options out there and how easy it is to get into these careers and how they can make a living.”
Students at SD67’s Indigenous Career Fair at Princess Margaret Secondary School on Nov 16. Photo by Athena Bonneau
As a mother of two young children, Cardenas shared her passion for building a sense of community, emphasizing the importance of involving youth in trades for real-world experience.
“I never saw myself in this position with the fire brigade but I love it. I feel it’s something that I’m going to continue doing for a long while,” said Cardenas.
Cardenas encouraged Youth who may be interested in the trades to “come as you are and experience it firsthand” — embodying the inclusive and supportive spirit at the heart of the Indigenous Career Fair.
Dustin Hyde, the District Principal of Indigenous Education and Equity for SD67, highlighted the importance of broad representation of Indigenous workers across different sectors at the event.
“There was a parent who said, ‘my daughter wants to study medicine’ and it would be wonderful if there was an Indigenous doctor here,” said Hyde, who is Métis.
“We plan to broaden our role models next year and the hope and the dream would be that we just continue to offer more opportunities.”
Christy Tiessen, a member of the Indigenous Parent Group and organizer of the Career Fair, said the group will continue to meet monthly to find different ways to encourage Indigenous youth to see themselves in different career paths aside from only the traditional university route.
“If one kid walked out of here tonight and says, ‘I know what I want to do, that’s what I’m going to do’ and now they have a passion to move forward — that’s the goal,” said Tiessen.
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For 18-year-old syilx basketball star, sports and mental health intersect
Just down the road from where sk’ik’aycin Peter Waardenburg Jr. grew up is one of his favourite safe spaces — the Westbank First Nation’s (WFN) basketball court.
The sport is more than just a means of keeping active or staying connected with his community — it’s his go-to coping mechanism to help navigate whatever challenges may present themselves.
So whenever he needs to clear his mind and ground himself, the 18-year-old will head to outdoor facility in syilx homelands and spend time shooting hoops.
“Whenever I feel down or need to feel motivated, I’ll come out,” says Waardenburg Jr., who is a member of Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
“It allows me to get away from whatever I need, to create a space for myself.”
Waardenburg Jr. was raised by a community of basketball players. His family started Syilx Basketball long before he was born — some of his earliest memories are of him watching his older brother Treyton, his older cousins and his dad play.
In addition to Treyton, his favourites included local Syilx Basketball league legends Jesse Vissia and Skye Terbasket, with his mom even gifting him a poster of the latter for Christmas one year.
“I always liked to watch and analyze more than I liked to play when I was younger. I was a little shy,” he recalled.
But Waardenburg Jr. was playing ball by the time he was five years old. Throughout his 13-year career, he’s generally played the point guard position, sometimes switching to shooting guard if needed.
At one point, he also played competitive baseball, where his time as a pitcher taught him patience and how to keep himself calm.
“That helped me later on with basketball: being a point guard and calm on the floor, kind of leading,” he said.
Basketball has introduced him to a new world of different clubs, tournaments and communities throughout North America — he’s played with the Jr. Heat Boys Basketball Club, Okanagan Valley Elite, GW Hoops, the Similkameen Men’s team, and Syilx Basketball for both the Junior and regular All Native Basketball tournaments.
He’s also represented Team BC twice in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) — first in 2017, where the team placed second, and this past spring, where he was the starting point guard for the team, who finished third.
In 2022, he was part of the Syilx Basketball team that won the All Native Youth Basketball Tournament, which also saw him earn the MVP award. He competed again in this year’s Junior All Native, where he was the top scorer and was named an all-star, helping his team place second.
“Basketball allowed me to stay connected, especially to culture. With the All Native and with the Junior All Native, it brings you towards different tribes and bands,” he said.
A special highlight in his career was when he played with his older brother and his younger brother on a Men’s Similkameen Basketball team that his dad coached.
“When you’re surrounded by friends and family, and they’re playing basketball, it just makes you realize how much you’re loved,” he said.
This past August, Waardenburg Jr. was named as one of three syilx Okanagan recent high school graduates to receive a Syilx Siya Bursary Award from the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), for demonstrating “a willingness to dream big for themselves, their Nation, their community, and/or their family.”
Applicants for the bursary award were tasked with writing about overcoming a difficult moment in their lives. In his application, he wrote about losing his cousins to mental health challenges and how sports — basketball in particular — helped him cope.
“I definitely believe sports help with mental health. I’ve seen it help me through the roughest times,” said Waardenburg Jr., who graduated from Mount Boucherie Secondary School.
He said while opening up about loss was difficult, he has worked through many of the emotions involved with the grieving process.
“My two bros that I lost, they played a lot of basketball. I grew up playing with them,” he said.
Now, he is working his way through his first-year studies at Okanagan College’s business administration program. Waardenburg Jr. said he’s keen on promoting Indigenous sports more — he said he’d like to teach and coach other Indigenous Youth someday.
Speaking from his own experience, he encouraged those struggling with mental health to try and pick up a sport because you never know who you’ll meet that may help you down the road.
“It can also just make you realize that there’s more to life,” he said.
“Honestly, it could save someone.”
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Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc celebrates grand opening of on-reserve grocery store: ‘a source of pride’
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) is celebrating a new community-owned grocery store that’s bringing food options and employment opportunities to the reserve.
The grand opening for the new Sweláps Market is set to take place on Thursday at 11 a.m., and will include speeches and a ceremonial ribbon cutting. It will also feature week-long deals and prize draws, giveaways and food samples.
The Sweláps Market is located in the Chief Louis Centre, and had its soft opening on Oct. 19.
The market is owned by TteS but is open to everyone. The store displays signs in Secwepemctsín (Secwépemc language) including a welcoming of Weyt-kp above the front door.
The language also labels each department of the store such as q̓wlem (bakery) and ts̓i7 ell swewll (meat and fish).
On the market’s website, each department is listed with audio files to hear the proper pronunciation.
Sweláps translates to “bighorn sheep” and the logo represents the sheep’s horn among the mountains and North and South Thompson rivers.
The 22,000-square-foot grocery store incorporates culture into the architecture, including a Secwépemc weaving design on the ceiling and a wooden ladder outside which resembles the entrance of a pithouse.
After the ladder was carved on-site by Charles Dumont, the owner of Coyote Contracting and a TteS band member, and his son Ryder — a ceremony was held to bless the log as it was put into place.
General manager Kara Stokes spoke about the importance of having a market in the community, given that, before now, the closest grocery store was off-reserve and across the river.
The vision for a band-owned grocery store goes back ten years, Stokes recalled, with multiple locations explored before settling on the Chief Louis Centre.
Before the store’s opening, Kúkwpi7 Rosanne Casimir expressed high hopes for the store’s impact.
“This project will bring food closer to home, create employment, and further strengthen our economy,” she said in a community statement. “It will be a source of pride as leadership is fully implementing a community driven opportunity.”
Before opening, the public was kept up to date through updates and upcoming events listed on the market’s website.
A members-only job fair was held in September to give band members a chance to explore the job opportunities before opening it up to the public.
Between full-time and part-time job openings, the market employs a total of 65 people in management and frontline positions.
Stokes explained that the job openings are a helpful addition for TteS.
“That opens up the opportunity for a lot of people who live in the area to be able to work in the area,” she said.
Since the store opened to the public last month, Stokes said she has served customers of all ages and varying family sizes. The market is currently open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
“Everybody’s been coming in and shopping and it’s really amazing to see the support from the community to be able to provide this service,” she said.
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