This was my first time visiting Osoyoos in southern interior BC. It was only an afternoon trip after finishing my course in Kelowna. Wish I had more time! There are quite a few things to explore in this little town in the middle of Canada’s only desert.
Osoyoos History: Unity Rider
Collaboratively designed by Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band, and Okanagan artist, Virgil “Smoker” Marchand of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Omak, Washington.
This dramatic steel sculpture was commissioned by Tourism British Columbia to welcome and guide the visitor to Osoyoos. It speaks as a symbolic gesture of unification, and the strength in partnership between the communities of the Osoyoos Indian Band, the Town of Osoyoos, and the Province of British Columbia.
The Unity Rider Sculpture design was been adopted from the original and widely photographed Chief’s Sculpture at nearby NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre of the NK’MIP (ink-a-meep) Resort. This Unity Rider horse, however, is markedly different in its dramatic rearing position. The ceremonial Unity Staff, or medicine staff, and the grizzly bear graphic on the Chief’s shield are both powerful Aboriginal symbols. The grizzly bear motif is especially significant as Chief Clarence Louis has, in April 2007, been ceremonially assigned the native traditional ancestral name of “Kilawna”, translated as “Grizzly Bear”.
The Unity symbolism originated as part of the modern North American Aboriginal Unity Ride ceremony. The nine feathers in the staff represent the nine known Okanagan Indian bands of the 1880 post-reservation era:
- Upper Nicola Indian Band
- Okanagan Indian Band
- Osoyoos Indian Band
- Penticton Indian Band
- Lower Similkameen Indian Band
- Upper Similkameen Indian Band
- Westbank First Nation
- Arrow Lakes Band (the reserve lands were extinguished by government of the 1950s)
- those bands in modern-day Washington State, administered by the tribal government of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
Chief Clarence Louie and Virgil “Smoker” Marchand have designed and produced several statues in this community, including those at NK’MIP Cellars, NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre, Sen Pok Chin School, NK’MIP Canyon Desert Golf Course, and the Osoyoos Indian Band health Centre.
The Chief has, over many years, commissioned numerous Okanagan Native artworks. In a highly collaborative effort, he develops and conveys concepts to which the artist responds. From the first paper drafts through production, a creative and consultative, edit-and-approval process evolves. The sculptures have become a unique and enduring legacy of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Note: Osoyoos or “souyoos” roughly translates as “the narrow waterway where the land almost meets (the Osoyoos Bridge).
Exact location of Osoyoos Visitors Info Centre is indicated by Green Arrow on the following map (click EXTERNAL LINK below to view map).
Official Site: British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos