The Kootenay/Boundary region sits on unceded Aboriginal territory. This means there was never a treaty negotiated with the Aboriginal people of the area.
Several groups traditionally used this land, including the Ktunaxa, the Sinixt, and the Okanagan. They migrated across the region according to seasons and cycles. The Metis have also had a strong presence in the Kootenay/Boundary Region. Currently, multiple bands lay claim to having traditional use of the land.
The Circle of Indigenous Nations Society (also known as COINS), was formed in 2013 and is an Aboriginal non-profit society that provides cultural support and counseling services to all Aboriginal people throughout the West Kootenay/Boundary region.
Jesie Britton is the Aboriginal early years program coordinator at COINS. She delivers cultural activities to child care centres, Strong Start and family programs. She provides cultural support and training to non-Aboriginal staff, to help them be more culturally safe. Because there is such a negative history with child care and schools, Jesie helps staff to be inclusive and provides cultural understanding and information. Jesie notes that not much of what Aboriginal children learn is about their culture. That can be hard for children growing up, especially as they are not learning about what defines them. It helps to include culture so that Aboriginal children are not isolated from their culture, in the way that many have been in the past. Learning about Aboriginal culture also helps non-Aboriginal children develop a respect and appreciation for the culture. Jesie also offers Aboriginal family gatherings, as well as respite care to Aboriginal families. If parents need to get to an appointment, or need a few hours on their own, she can provide child care.
Offering culture in a child care centre, may include smudging, drumming or sharing (culture) with parents.
With older children, Jesie offers activities such as making talking sticks and telling Aboriginal stories. How a centre incorporates this as a part of their program depends on the centre. Jesie suggests bringing ceremony into programs by opening daily with a smudge, talking circle or drumming. She sees that ceremony is missing in our society today and feels that it is a great way to teach kids how to be: The talking circle teaches children that they have a voice, how to listen; the drum teaches resect for Mother nature, through honouring songs (animals and trees that give their lives for the drum) The drum itself is the heart beat of the earth and teaches children a sense of connection and responsibility to the earth. Overall, incorporating traditional values such as the medicine wheel teachings, helps children to learn about the importance of balance in their lives, and helps them better take care of themselves.
Many child care centres throughout the Kootenays have invited COINS to attend their programs. Jesie will respond to what centres are looking for and usually offers 3-8 sessions, once/week for an hour or two.
For child care centres and families who would like to learn more, please contact Jesie at:
If you are a family looking to connect with the Aboriginal community, COINS offers a number of family programs. There are Aboriginal family gatherings in Trail and Salmo twice/month: Salmo is the 1st and 3rd Tuesday monthly, from 4:00 – 6:00 pm at the Salmo Community Resource Centre. Trail is the 1st and 3rd Saturday monthly, from 12:00 -2:00 at the CBAL office. The whole family, and foster families of Aboriginal children are welcome to participate in cultural activities, with a meal provided. Drum circles are held the last Thursday of the month, from 5:00 -7:00 at the COINS office in Castlegar.