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Ground breaks on Okanagan Indian Band’s new Cultural Immersion School

The new school on Okanagan Indian Reserve No. 1 is expected to open September 2025
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An architectural rendering of the Okanagan Indian Band’s new Cultural Immersion School, a project that broke ground on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (OKIB photo)

Students in the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) will soon have a new space in which to learn about their culture and of the school curriculum.

The OKIB held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, Feb. 22, for its new Cultural Immersion Elementary School, which will replace the school on Westside Road on Indian Reserve No. 1.

The current school is “aging and outgrown,” according to the OKIB and Indigenous Services Canada, who put out a joint press release Thursday.

“When complete, the new facility will provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for future generations to come. Students can thrive while embracing the Squilxw language and culture as well as all forms of academic success,” the press release states.

The new school will have seven classrooms, a gymnasium, kitchen, library and “language culture and administration areas” designed to help the OKIB to expand a “culturally appropriate learning environment” for the community’s Kindergarten (age four) to Grade 7 students.

The federal government has committed $19.3 million for the project. The OKIB will contribute $2.85 million.

The school is expected to open in September 2025.

“We are pleased to break ground for the new school. At the heart of our traditions, we Syilx nurture the roots of wisdom. Our Cultural Immersion School—nk̓maplqs iʔ snm̓am̓ay̓aʔtn iʔ k̓l sqilxʷtət—is a place where heritage becomes the compass guiding future leaders on a journey of knowledge, respect, and unity,” said OKIB Chief Byron Louis. “The work leading up to this groundbreaking ceremony for the new school relied on the determination and support of OKIB elders, parents, educators, and community members. Now, it’s time to build the new school to provide a positive place of learning for our students.”

While not able to attend in person, Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu joined the OKIB in celebrating the groundbreaking’s significance.

“I recognize the hard work it took for the community to reach this milestone. This partnership is a significant testament of our shared vision for a brighter future which honours and embraces the rich culture and educational needs of the community,” Hajdu said in a statement. “I look forward to visiting the school when it is complete.”

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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