Unveiling Syilx Okanagan Traditional Knowledge
The oral stories of the Syilx Okanagan contain a wealth of indigenous knowledge. Unfortunately, much of this knowledge is largely inaccessible.
Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Canada Research Chair in Okanagan Indigenous Knowledge and Philosophy, aims to address existing barriers to research within this indigenous community by surveying, analyzing and categorizing Syilx captikwl (mythology) and smamay (legends) from a variety of published and unpublished collections.
Armstrong is analyzing Syilx traditional knowledge to obtain information about Syilx society, as well as ecological and sustainability practices, and to link Syilx story knowledge to such areas as governance, land use and health. Her analysis is being conducted in the Nsyilxcen Okanagan language and includes approvals by fluent language speakers for accuracy of translations.
To date, Western conventions have created a cultural blindness to indigenous methods of knowledge documentation in storytelling. As well, analysis of Syilx culture and language contexts has not been conducted using a combination of Syilx story and Western literary conventions.
Armstrong’s research will make the indigenous knowledge of the Syilx Okanagan accessible for the first time, and will provide planning and development support within Syilx Okanagan First Nation communities.