A nine metre (30 foot), hand-cut metal sculpture by local Indigenous artist Clint George is now installed and proudly on display in Okanagan College’s new Health Sciences Centre.
The sculpture represents the Four Food Chiefs, and depicts the Syilx Okanagan oral history (or captikʷɬ) on how food was given. In the tradition, the Four Chiefs were skəmxist (Bear), n’tyxtix (Salmon), spitlem (Bitterroot) and siyaʔ (Saskatoon).
“When I had the opportunity to build a sculpture for the College, especially in Kelowna, I chose one of the most important stories we have, which is our Four Food Chiefs,” says George, who is a member of the Penticton Indian Band (SnPink’tn).
“I think it’s very important when any image of the Four Food Chiefs goes up in the Okanagan or anywhere, that you give it an image that people are going to ask questions about and in that case, it helps teach people about who we are and where we came from.”
The sculpture spans all three stories of the Health Sciences Centre offering unique views on each floor where student study and meeting spaces are located.
“This beautiful sculpture creates a culturally relevant space where we can offer more Indigenous-based programming such as storytelling, workshops and ceremonial activities all with the goal of increasing our education and awareness amongst the OC community,” says Anthony Isaac, Okanagan College’s Indigenization Project Manager.
James Coble, director of Student Services at Okanagan College, says the sculpture demonstrates the College’s commitment to creating welcoming spaces for Indigenous students.
“One of our goals is to use expressions of Indigenous culture, like this one, as a way to initiate meaningful conversations for the benefit of all learners at Okanagan College.”