Elope BC officiant Sue Cairnie led a vow renewal and baby blessing ceremony for Joseph Jules-Peters (right) and Landon Sekwaw Peters (left) at the Belgo Chapel in Kelowna on May 7. The couple’s wedding renewal vows focused on parenting with humour and love no matter what. Photo by Joelsview Photography
The love story of Landon Sekwaw Peters and Joseph Jules-Peters began many years ago, when they first met as teens at a powwow.
They dated on and off for a while, but eventually moved back into a friendship, co-parenting a shared pet dog.
Then, five years ago, the old flames reconnected, and in July of 2020, the Secwépemc couple eloped.
The pair immediately wanted to start a family, but had trouble conceiving so they began undergoing fertility treatments.
The treatments were unsuccessful, and after Landon’s previous history with recurrent pregnancy loss, they decided to begin exploring other options, such as surrogacy and adoption.
In the midst of this, for Landon — who is trans — it made sense to begin his testosterone hormone therapy in December of 2021.
Landon, now 29, identified as non-binary since he was about 16 and shared he was trans with the broader community in 2020.
“I had a breakdown about it because I had no hope of trying to get the world to see me how I see me,” he said, “because it wasn’t easy to come out of the closet.”
Landon also got on a list for top surgery, and when the procedure was mere months away, took a pregnancy test to confirm it was safe to proceed with a higher dose of testosterone.
In the past, Landon had hoped and prayed for positive results. This time, he wanted to confirm it was negative.
“The only reason I even took that pregnancy test was because I had missed taking my testosterone for three days, so it was the first time I was taking a test to double check I wasn’t pregnant,” Landon said.
However, the results came back with an unexpected twist: the test was positive.
A surprise blessing
Landon and Joseph wore handmade moccasins from a local artisan for their wedding renewal and baby blessing ceremony. Photo by Joelsview Photography
The couple quickly got on board with the surprise blessing. At the time of the interview, Peters was 24 weeks pregnant and was expecting to deliver in mid-September.
Joseph has two other children, a five and seven-year-old from a previous relationship, and the couple was eager to see their family continue to grow.
“That thought came out of my head a long time ago when I knew Landon wanted to transition,” Joseph, 31, said. “So I knew natural children might not happen for us, so I pushed that out of my head. If we had kids another way, that would be OK and not really thinking it was going to happen — it was a big ‘oh my god’ moment.”
It’s the culmination of a longtime dream for Landon, however it also means compromising his transition — going “backwards” in how he is perceived — which has made the process difficult to navigate at times.
“Nothing makes me happier than getting this far in my pregnancy and I’m in shock and surrealness every day,” Landon said. “This is definitely the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but I have to compromise myself throughout the whole journey.”
For the time being, Landon’s top surgery has been postponed, and he is now planning to resume testosterone treatments roughly six months after giving birth.
“I am being presented as very femme because of my belly,” he said with a laugh. “Wearing my normal clothing, which is sweat pants and a t-shirt, doesn’t have the same vibe anymore.”
‘It was amazing to be welcomed’
In May, Landon and Joseph decided to celebrate everything they’ve overcome with a vow renewal and baby blessing ceremony held at the Belgo Chapel in Kelowna.
“Even though we were already married, it was even more nerve-wracking than our actual wedding,” Joseph said of the event.
“I was stupid nervous. I hid back my tears the entire time. It was super nice to have people who have witnessed me and Landon’s relationship when we were younger talk about it and how amazing it was. It was amazing to be welcomed.”
Landon acknowledged that celebrating their baby before it’s born wasn’t a traditional approach, based on his nation’s cultural teachings, but the decision was a heartfelt one which honoured the couple’s journey toward becoming parents.
“I believe celebrating the birth parent and the baby are separate things, and I really felt it was important for me to feel in my own way that I had climbed through my own deepest darkest hole in the battle of a lifetime to get here,” he said.
“Ideally, (I’d like) for that to be seen and witnessed and documented in all the ways possible.”
The daylong event for the couple and their baby began with a welcome song performed in the Secwépemc language by Peter Michel and a prayer was offered by Lawrence Michel, Landon’s grandfather.
The couple wore locally-made moccasins down the aisle, and exchanged rings from a berry-stained birchbark basket before revealing they would be having a daughter.
Guests were invited to write letters to their child for the couple to read together after the festivities.
“To me, it’s a dream come true,” Joseph said. “It’s definitely somewhere I wanted to be when I was younger, but I never really pictured myself being here … I worked really hard to get here, and it’s very satisfying.”
The importance of ceremony
The couple read their vows in front of a small group of friends and family at the Belgo Chapel in Kelowna this spring. Photo by Joelsview Photography
The officiant for the event, Sue Cairnie, has now performed two ceremonies for the couple, including their elopement and this latest celebration to honour their growing family.
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to me to use modern and gender-inclusive language in my ceremonies,” Sue said.
“When queer couples find me, we work together to create a ceremony that accurately shares who they are and their love story with their loved ones. Sometimes this means switching things up and updating traditions, and I have lots of ideas for queer couples.”
She said she has learned about how sacred LGBTQ+ people are in many Indigenous cultures, as being considered sacred and “with powerful gifts to share,” which is something she wanted to help reflect in the ceremony.
“My gift is to share ceremonies that are a loving container for both the joyful and painful moments of life,” she said.
“I’m grateful for every person who has shared their story with me so that I can share it with their community.”
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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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