10 Indigenous delights in South Okanagan

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Posted May 22, 2018 by Adrian Brijbassi in aboriginal
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British Columbia High School Rodeo Queen Keianna James is one of the members of the Osoyoos Indian Band who welcomes visitors to Oliver and Osoyoos. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor

OSOYOOS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — The South Okanagan is full of activities that have a mix of exhilaration, culture, sophistication, and charm. Thanks to the efforts of the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), many of those experiences can also be enjoyed with an Indigenous aspect to them. These are 10 outstanding tourist activities where you can find the influence of the OIB. Be sure to include them next time you venture to BC’s leading wine country in the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos.

Check Into Spirit Ridge Resort — Unbound Collection by Hyatt

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Spirit Ridge features exquisite views of Lake Osoyoos and some of the vineyards of NK’Mip Cellars. (Mark Romans photo for Vacay.ca)

A luxury resort property on the shores of Lake Osoyoos, Spirit Ridge is the first Canadian property to be part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt – a global brand marketed as “unique and story-worthy stay experiences.” Spirit Ridge’s accommodations and facilities embrace the Osoyoos Indian Band’s culture through art, language, food, and stories. The property provides easy access to the South Okanagan’s many sights, and even has an Indigenous-owned winery (NK’Mip Cellars) and museum facility (NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre) neighbouring it. Spirit Ridge’s amenities include a nine-hole golf course (Sonora Dunes), a relaxing spa (Solterra Desert Spa), a fine-dining restaurant (Mica), and an outdoor pool with breathtaking views of the lake and the surrounding Monashee Mountains. Not to be missed is the Spirit Beach Cantina, where hotel guests can mingle with campers and local residents while enjoying tacos, margaritas, and fun times on the lakeshore.

Hike nʕaylintn (McIntyre Bluff)

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nʕaylintn is an ancient rock formation that members of the Okanagan Nation have revered for generations. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

A towering edifice of metamorphic rock, nʕaylintn (prononuced nigh-lin-tin) is an unmissable landmark on Highway 97 in Oliver. Previously named McIntyre Bluff after a local settler, the bluff has been known to the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) and its Okanagan ancestors as nʕaylintn for millennia. Some observers say the ridge of the cliff resembles the face of an Indigenous chief. A three-hour round-trip hike takes you to the top of the wonder where you will gaze upon the valley from 673 metres (2,208 feet) up. It’s a stunning vista that reveals the breadth of the landscape around you.

Play NK’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course

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A championship golf course, NK’Mip Canyon Desert features a stellar view of nʕaylintn and the scenery in Oliver. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

Designed by OIB members, this 18-hole championship course is a sprawling layout that is playable for golfers of all levels. The showcase hole is No. 6, which provides an outstanding view of nʕaylintn, from teebox to green. After your round, enjoy quality pub food, along with local wines and craft beer from the Okanagan Valley in the Rattlesnake Bar.

NK’Mip Canyon Desert is another example of the OIB’s success stories because of what it provides for its people. “It’s important that we have a golf course for young people like this guy,” says Tony Baptiste, an OIB council member, while gesturing to his son, Victor. “It teaches you focus. You need to be disciplined to get good at this game. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted our community to have this course.”

Explore the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

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The NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is an outstanding interpretive facility that lets visitors understand the culture of the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Okanagan region. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

A contemporary interpretive facility, the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre provides visitors with an opportunity to understand the practices of the Okanagan Nation, of which the OIB is part. Visitors will learn how the Indigenous community honours its past and showcases its heritage through artifacts, interactive displays, and riveting storytelling. A tour of the cultural centre’s teepee village and pit house is also a must for visitors, who will gain an understanding of the desert landscape and the deep cultural ties the Indigenous people have to it. Guided tours are available.

Savour a Tasting at NK’Mip Cellars

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Some wine tastings can be enjoyed in the barrel room at NK’Mip Cellars. (Nic Amaya photo for Vacay.ca)

One of Canada’s leading winemakers is the OIB’s NK’Mip Cellars, whose award-winning products are produced in partnership with Arterra Wines Canada. When they visit Osoyoos, wine lovers will be in the middle of Canada’s premier grape-growing region, with the chance to be immersed in the industry’s celebrated terroir. They will also have plenty of opportunity to sample the best of NK’Mip’s offerings. Along with a standard tasting experience, guests can select the Land and Legacy Tour that includes the chance to tour the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and explore NK’Mip Cellars’ winemaking process, including a visit to its on-site vineyards. The Perfect Union Wine and Cheese Tour includes the chance to sample local cheeses as well as NK’Mip’s red and white varietals.

Experience Horse Culture

Take it from BC’s High School Rodeo Queen, horses are a vital part of the culture of the Okanagan Valley. “Horses have been a part of our way of life for many, many years. They’ve helped us take care of the land and to reach places where we wouldn’t have been able to without them,” says Keianna James, who exemplifies the impressive character of the OIB’s corps of young members. Horse culture is strong in the Okanagan, where rodeos are held and riding excursions with Indigenous leaders can be experienced. The Indian Grove Riding Stables provides half- or full-day trail rides where you can learn about horses and their importance to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents.

Camp or Picnic by the Lake

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The NK’Mip Campground and RV Park is within walking distance of Spirit Ridge and other facilities. (Nic Amaya photo for Vacay.ca)

NK’Mip Campground and RV Park is an expansive space with more than 350 sites. The facilities include an indoor swimming pool, WiFi, on-site grocery store, and the Spirit Beach Cantina, all located on Lake Osoyoos. The campground has been in operation since 1970 and has earned a reputation as one of the best operations of its kind in Canada. It is also within walking distance of Spirit Ridge, the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, and NK’Mip Cellars. Be sure to check out the metal sculptures of Indigenous people at the entrance to the campground.

Catch the Thrills of Area 27

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Area 27 in Oliver is a high-performance race track designed by Canadian Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

For a high-octane adventure, get your performance-driving certification at Area 27, where Canadian car-racing icon Jacques Villeneuve has created a Formula 1-style track in Oliver. The three-day academy courses run until October 23 and give you an opportunity to drive on this track that has attracted racing aficionados from around the world since it opened in 2017.

Spy Spotted Lake

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Spotted Lake, whose waters have healing properties, is a sacred landmark to Indigenous communities in the Okanagan Valley. (Adrian Brijbassi/Vacay.ca)

About 15 kilometres (9 miles) northwest of Spirit Ridge is one of the OIB’s most sacred places. Spotted Lake is known for its salt and mineral deposits that cause a series of large round formations in the water. These deposits are not only picturesque, they’re known to have healing properties. Access to the lake is often limited because the Indigenous community is mindful of preventing it from overuse or damage. But it can be viewed and admired from the road side off of Highway 3.

Get Gas

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The Petro-Canada station in Osoyoos is where you can fill up on authentic souvenirs as well as gas. (Nic Amaya photo for Vacay.ca)

The NK’Mip Corner Petro-Canada station may be your last stop in town, but don’t make it just a quick refuelling break. Be sure to step inside this OIB-owned operation. Located at the corner of Highway 3 and 45th Street (the turn-off for Spirit Ridge), the gas station features Indigenous souvenirs and apparel on shelves and racks well worth browsing through. It’s not likely you will find another gas station in the country that sells authentic, high-quality dreamcatchers, wood carvings or decorative wall art. 

WIN A PRIVATE LONGTABLE DINNER WITH CELEBRITY CHEF RICH FRANCIS

rich-francis-dinnerYou and 3 friends have a chance to experience Canada’s premier Indigenous chef, Rich Francis, as he brings his culinary talents to Spirit Ridge and the NK’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos, British Columbia, on June 9, 2018, for an outdoor longtable dinner like no other. Savour legendary wines from award-winning NK’Mip Cellars, and learn their rich story from local Indigenous winemaker Justin Hall himself, all while dining under the stars next to teepees and traditional pit houses. Winners and their party are put up for the night in a suite courtesy of Spirit Ridge. Three prizes to be won. Don’t miss your chance to be part of this phenomenal and unique dining experience with this former Top Chef Canada finalist.

Enter to Win.

MORE VACAY.CA COVERAGE

NK’Mip Cellars Garners Acclaim The 2016 Intervin Canadian Winery of the Year continues to collect national and international honours, and visitors will learn why it is one of Canada’s leading wine brands. Read more.

Destiny Matches Winemakers and the South Okanagan Immigrants from India, farmers devoted to sustainability, and Indigenous community members have turned the grape-growing regions of Oliver and Osoyoos into global success stories. Read more.

Osoyoos Indian Band Cultivates Success The grape-growing land of the South Okanagan resides in the traditional territory of the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), which is a community of about 540 members within the Okanagan Nation, and their agricultural practices and spirituality tied to the land have been important in cultivating the crops that have led to such success for many in the region. Read more.

This article is the fourth of an expanded content series focusing on travel to Osoyoos and the South Okanagan. It was created in partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band, Arterra Wines Canada, Spirit Ridge Resort – Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Destination Osoyoos, and the Oliver-Osoyoos Wine Association.


About the Author

Adrian Brijbassi
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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and his articles are frequently syndicated by the Huffington Post and appear in the Globe & Mail. He makes regular appearances on CTV News, TSN Radio and CJSF Radio, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. A former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing and fiction, and has visited more than 30 countries. He is also a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and spearheaded the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list that debuted in April 2012.

 
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Glamping joy at Whispering Springs
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