The Rocky Mountain Trench and it’s wide open valleys is anchored between the Purcell and Canadian Rockies of the Kootenay region of SE British Columbia. Here you will find the ancestral territory of the Ktunaxa people. They were a migratory seasonal people following along the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers living off the bounty of Mother Earth. For over 11,000 years they have called this great region of the province home practicing their way of life. Discover what this life was like with the Ktunaxa Speaking Earth.
Ktunaxa Speaking Earth Experience
These experiences, as well as the Ktunaxa (pronounced k-too-nah-ha) culture and traditions are now part of a first-ever program at St. Eugene Golf and Casino Resort. The Speaking Earth Haqaⱡpaⱡninam (Hackalth-palth-knee-nam) is a series of activities that take you on a journey to another time and experience the life of another nation and their world.
See my the full ZenSeekers story on the Ktunaxa Speaking Earth program that I wrote and photographer here; Speaking Earth: First Nations program turns dark past into a bright future.
Rebirth and Renewal of a Culture at St. Eugene Mission
The main resort building still standing today was built in 1910 as the St. Eugene Mission which was the first residential school of its kind in western Canada. Residential schools were created by the federal government who at the time believed the country should be one people. First Nation culture and language needed to be wiped out and the children assimilated within the school system, taken away from their families.
In 1970, the school was closed as the country realized these programs were wrong and the government schools shut down. One by one residential schools across the country closed and the first nations children returned to their families. Two decades St. Eugene Mission sat empty as a symbol of the hardships and pain committed on the Ktunaxa people.
“Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission School that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it is returned.” – Elder Mary Paul, 1984
This would change though under the guiding efforts of Chief Sophie Pierre. She was inspired by Elder Mary Paul’s belief that “You lose something only if you refuse to pick it up again.” Chief Pierre herself was quoted as saying, “Figure out what makes you special; that’s what you sell. We’re selling an opportunity to understand our history, to know our people and to share our vision of turning a 60-year nightmare around. We’re creating new memories for our children.”
Ktunaxa Speaking Earth
Over the next years the world class St.Eugene golf course would be built, then the casino and finally the hotel in the original school building by 2003. Nearly two decades have passed since the rebirth of the school grounds and now the ultimate vision has been fulfilled. The Interpretive Centre and Ktunaxa Speaking Earth program are now a reality, welcoming visitors in 2018.
St. Eugene Mission is the only place of its kind in Canada; one of only three residential schools left standing in B.C. and is 100 percent owned by the First Nations people. Paving the way, the Speaking Earth program will set an example of what cultural education and healing with the power of Reconciliation can be.
As it states on the Speaking Earth website, “Live, Learn & Explore like never before.”
Once again, that link to my full ZenSeekers story can be found at Speaking Earth: First Nations program turns dark past into a bright future.