Celebrating and Honoring the Culture of the Okanagan in Osoyoos, BC
As part of our deep dive into the Napa of the North, BC’s Okanagan Valley, we’re checking out all the things to do in Osoyoos. Today, how local resorts and restaurants do it right when it comes to honoring the history of the area.
Osoyoos, located just north of the Washington-BC border, sits adjacent to the Indian Reserve of the Osoyoos Indian Band, members of the Okanagan nation. Though the area is renowned for its fine dining and incredible wine production, local chefs, vineyards, and hotels have gone to great lengths to respect the history of the land. A visit to the area isn’t complete without learning more about the rich cultural history of the Okanagan Valley and its people; luckily, Osoyoos is chock full of opportunities to dive in while you’re on vacation.
A subtle cultural touchstone worth checking out: the charcuterie and cheese boards area restaurants, particularly Mica at Spirit Ridge. Chef Nick filled us in on how the culinary team at the restaurant (named for a local creek, which the Osoyoos Band traditionally used as a healing space) worked with the members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance in the area to ensure they served local foods. Candied salmon, cured with maple and brown sugar, are a stand-out – the resort picks it up locally from the Osoyoos Band members, who also maintain the Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre right next door to the resort.
The Centre itself is a gem: it’s an incredible opportunity to learn about the area and the people who live there. The self-guided museum features two theaters, indoor and outdoor exhibits, and just shy of a mile of trails celebrating the people and wildlife of the region. Sit in on a smudging ceremony, learn about how the Okanagan Nation respects and interacts with the desert around them, and take in the artwork of decades’ worth of children who went to school on the Reserve. For the culinary-focused, Spirit Ridge occasionally partners with Nk’Mip Cellars and the Cultural Centre to host First Nations-inspired chef’s dinners outdoors at the museum.
The can’t-miss experience, though, is a tour of the Band’s cultural landmarks. Private Tour Guide Patty Bower, the woman behind Swiws Spirit Tours, is part of the Osoyoos Band, and she’s the go-to pro for showing visitors what’s what in the area. Patty offers both wine tours (highly recommended!) and cultural tours, and she shines on both. A trip to Spotted Lake, a protected sacred area owned by the Osyooos Band, is a must. Patty fills you in on what makes the area so important to the Okanagan people, the politics and legal challenges they faced in possessing the lake in the first place, and then treats you to an incredible view of the valley from atop Anarchist Mountain.