Osoyoos is rooted deeply in Indigenous culture and history. The name “Osoyoos” originates from sẁiẁs (pronounced “soo-yoos”) meaning “narrowing of the waters” in the local Okanagan language (Syilx’tsn).
When you visit, immerse yourself in the unique Indigenous culture of Osoyoos – from seeing Kliluk (Spotted Lake) to indulging in Indigenous inspired culinary fare. By experiencing many of these local activities, not only are you supporting Indigenous-led businesses, but you are sure to leave with a deeper understanding and connection to the land and people of Osoyoos.
Here are 7 ways to to experience Osoyoos Indigenous culture:
1. EXPERIENCE: THE NK’MIP DESERT CULTURAL CENTRE
Immerse yourself in the past, present, and future of the Osoyoos Indian Band at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. This state-of-the-art interpretive centre is an architectural marvel, sensitively constructed into the hillside. Extensive indoor and outdoor exhibit galleries create a fun, interactive learning environment with hands-on displays, education stations and two multi-media theatre experiences. You will discover indoor and outdoor nature and cultural exhibits that showcase desert ecology and wildlife and the history of the Osoyoos Indian Band. You can even get a close look at a rattlesnake or can sign up for a hike/rappelling excursion in the desert. Complete your visit by stopping in Coyote’s Gifts to shop for unique Indigenous crafts, jewelry and giftware.
2. SIP: NK’MIP CELLARS
Nk’Mip Cellars is dedicated to educating and showcasing their proud legacy. As the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America, Nk’Mip Cellars inspires to express Indigenous culture in everything they do. The Winery itself is a bold celebration and a strong reflection of a commitment to authenticity and deep respect for their colourful past. Discover, not only the international award-winning wines that they produce, but also the relentless spirit and remarkable history that inspire them.
3. TASTE: THE BEAR, THE FISH, THE ROOT & THE BERRY
The Bear, The Fish, The Root, and The Berry serves upscale comfort food amid incredible vineyard, lake, and mountain views. Influenced by the Four Food Chiefs; Bear, Salmon, Bitterroot and Saskatoon berry, each dish represents the key elements of Indigenous Cuisine. The Restaurant is found in Spirit Ridge Resort and is the perfect place to enjoy a local glass of wine on the patio as you recount your day in Osoyoos.
4. EXPLORE: SẀIẀS PROVINCIAL PARK
sẁiẁs Provincial Park is located within the traditional territory of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Since time immemorial, the Osoyoos Indian Band’s Okanagan ancestors have inhabited and cared for the lands and waters within their traditional territory. Lakeside campsites and privacy make this one of the most popular provincial parks in the province. Campers are encouraged to book reservations early in the season to secure campsites during the busy summer months.
In 2015, the park was renamed to reflect the traditional Okanagan place name for the area. The nqilxʷcən/nsyilxcən place name and history of sẁiẁs have been passed down for thousands of years through the oral tradition of capti’kʷl stories and teachings. sẁiẁs sounds similar to “s-wee-yous” and means a place where it is shallow or narrow in the middle of the lake. The place name explains how the area was used to cross Osoyoos Lake by foot or by horse.
5. CYCLE: NʕAYLINTN
Nʕaylintn (McIntyre Bluff) is a large ridge of rock, made of gneiss, towering 265 metres high is located in the White Lake Protected Area south of Vaseux Lake between Okanagan Falls and Oliver in British Columbia, Canada. This Southern Okanagan Valley park stretching 3,741 hectares created to protect endangered plants and animals. McIntyre Bluff is not only a unique sight to see but is also rich in Sylix First Nation history.
The trail itself is roughly 10km (approximately 1.5 hours by bike) round trip, and takes you through vineyard, desert, and rattlesnake lake as you wind your way up to the top of the bluff where breathtaking views of the valley await. Access to the bluff is currently located at Mahoney Lake via Green Lake Road.
6. SEE: SPOTTED LAKE (Kliluk)
Spotted Lake in Osoyoos is a small lake rich in a variety of minerals, including calcium, sodium sulfates and magnesium sulfate. During the hot summer months, much of the water in the lake evaporates, leaving concentrations of these minerals that form the spots visible in the lake. Throughout the summer, the spots shift in size and colour as the minerals within each change with further evaporation. Colours ranging from blue to green to yellow appear, depending on the mineral makeup of each individual spot.
Spotted Lake is known to the First Nations People of the Osoyoos area as Kliluk, and it is a sacred site that has been considered a revered place of healing for centuries. The belief is that each of the different circles holds its own unique medicinal and healing properties. Stop to view spotted lake from the pullout off of Highway 3 West and note that entry beyond the gate is not permitted as this is a sacred site.
7. STAY: SPIRIT RIDGE LAKE RESORT, WINERY, AND SACRED LAND
You’ll know when you’ve arrived at Spirit Ridge; there’s no mistaking the gently sloping vineyards, glittering Osoyoos Lake, and dramatic Okanagan Range, part of the Cascade Mountains, that surround the luxury resort. Located in the heart of the dramatic desert landscape, a place sacred to the Osoyoos Indian Band, visitors can enjoy this exclusive all-suite resort, and discover the natural landscapes and delicious food and wine that make Spirit Ridge a true wellness-centred oasis.
When you visit Osoyoos, you can immerse yourself in our Indigenous culture in many ways. Plan your trip for summer or fall by visiting destinationosoyoos.com.
Feature Image Credit: Shayd Johnson