OKIB's newest gathering space opens in Vernon, B.C.

The Okanagan Indian Band unveiled their newest gathering space in the community. While it was built and ready for use in 2020 it couldn't be opened until now, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Victoria Femia has more on the grand opening of the Cultural Arbor.

The Okanagan Indian Band held a grand opening ceremony for its newly constructed Cultural Arbor located at Vernon B.C’s Komasket Park in Syilx territory.

The celebration welcomed many people from the OKIB who came to see their community’s newest gathering space.

“It’s really important to our community because it’s one of those places where we have events, families come down and have some sort of family gathering. I mean, you’ll never find a nicer place anywhere in the Okanagan, when you look around,” said Chief Byron Louis of the Okanagan Indian Band.

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The Arbor was built in the 1980s and decommissioned in 2018. The rebuild includes many pieces of the original Arbor and is expected to last in the community for decades to come.

“The other one was (started) in the 80s and since it was made of wood, there was a lot of rot in there, so we had to take everything down. But what you see is treated wood and so this one, I think, is going to last (longer),” said Louis.

The Arbor can accommodate approximately 300 people. It’s a circular open-air roofed building that features bleacher-style seating that flows around the inside of the structure in four tiers.

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Many of the community members who came out to the event were grateful to have the Arbor back.

“This is how we bring our family and our people back together again, we need this for our interactions with the last two years of covid and the fires, this is so important for our people,” said OKIB community member Deb Nicholas.

The OKIB plans to hold more events at the Arbor as soon as possible since many were put on hold due to COVID-19.

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