Osoyoos is the southern-most town in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia between Penticton and Omak. Near the border with Washington state, the town is also adjacent to the Indian Reserve of the Osoyoos Indian Band. The origin of the name Osoyoos was the word sẁiẁs (pronounced "soo-yoos") meaning "narrowing of the waters" in the local Okanagan language (Syilx'tsn). The "O-" prefix is not indigenous in origin and was attached by settler-promoters wanting to harmonize the name with other place names beginning with O in the Okanagan Country (Oliver, Omak, Oroville, Okanogan). The nqilxʷcən/nsyilxcən place name and history of sẁiẁs (Osoyoos) have been passed down for thousands of years through the oral tradition of capti’kʷl stories and teachings.
Okanagan (sylix) Nation
The Okanagan (syilx) people occupy an area which extends over approximately 69 000 square kilometers. The northern area of this territory is close to the area of Mica Creek, just north of Revelstoke, BC, and the eastern boundary is Kootenay Lake. The southern boundary extends to the vicinity of Wilbur, Washington and the western border extends into the Nicola Valley. The Osoyoos Indian Band is one of six bands of the Syilx nation.
The Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) traditional territory extends throughout the majority of the South Okanagan from Okanagan Falls to south of the United States Border. With centuries of history of living in this unique desert environment the OIB people have always had a special connect to the land. Since the arrival of the settlers OIB has evolved to survive in modern times by being leaders in first nation’s economic development through agriculture and tourism development.
In 1975 the Osoyoos Indian band established the first commercial vineyard dedicated to vinifera varieties with plantings of Riesling, Ehrenfelser and Scheurebe. The Okanagan Valley is the second largest Canadian wine region, the approximately 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of vineyards planted in the Okanagan that account for more than 90% of all wine produced in British Columbia. Today, OIB now has over 1200 acres of vineyards planted on the reserve which makes up 12% of Okanagan Valleys vines. The south Okanagan has the majority on the wineries grown to over 120 wineries and OIB has participated in this industry by building NK’MIP Cellars the first Aboriginal North American owned winery in 2004. Learn more about the South Okanagan wine region and the Syilx nation through our experienced guides.
kɬlilxʷ – Spotted Lake
Spotted Lake is a sacred medicine lake of the Okanagan People. “Since the dawn of history, Spotted Lake or “kɬlilxʷ” as it is truly called, it has remained a sacred place. Indians from all tribes came to visit the lake for the medicine the lake contains. The ceremonial cairns, too numerous to count that surround the lake testify to that. Some of these are so ancient they have sunk underground and only their tops remain above ground. Some are buried altogether. There are many captikʷɬ stories and historical accounts told by our ancestors and elders about the cures this lake has provided, physically and spiritually through its medicinal powers.
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