Traditional games part of Upper Nicola festivities last week
Activities at the Aboriginal Day celebrations at Upper Nicola band, on June 21, 2011, were geared towards familiar games the people had from their childhood, such as horse shoe and crib tournaments, watermelon rely, as well as the potato dance, and egg toss, all of which took great physical skill.
The festivities began with prayer, offering thanks for the many provisions our Creator has bestowed upon the people. Chief Daniel Manuel spoke to the membership, making everyone welcome.
The horse shoe tournament began a long time ago. It has been among the Sylix nation for many years. Legend has it that this game first began, after several young men had finished their work, removing the old worn out shoes off the work and riding horses. They filed and fitted new shoes on the teams and riding horses, preparing them for their work in the fields or for riding out in the mountain ranges.
One day, after a hard day of shoeing horses, there were many old shoes left lying around, so the young men decided to have a game with these old shoes. At first they did not know what to do or how to use the shoes in their games. Then, as they were cleaning up the yard, one man was tossing an old shoe and he hit a big spike which the shoe dropped onto. He shouted, I have it, let’s have a horse shoe throw, and see who can throw an old horse shoe accurately so it lands onto a little round pole.
That is how it all began, the young men tested their skills with their wrist and their fingers to throw a horse shoe and have it land on or around a pole.
Of course, there were several young men there, so each took their turn, until finally, they had mastered their throw.
This horse shoe throw became very popular. It went over the hills to the relative tribes of our Sylix. To Vernon, Penticton, Kelowna, Keremeos and other Sylix nations.
Here, began the Horse Shoe Tournament. Prizes were designed to be given to the best horse shoe thrower.
The watermelon relay, of course would have come from our grand-parents and great-grand-parents, as every summer, when the watermelons were ripe, a sales man would come to our reserves, his old truck loaded full of watermelons. He sold his watermelons to our people; he knew we loved the fruit.
I remember one summer, an old truck came to our house, it was loaded with watermelons. My dad bought about twelve of them. Of course back then they did not cost much. The melons were given to the summer workers who were hired by my dad, to cut the hay. Those were the good old days. But that is another story for later.
The watermelon relay came about, from those days too, as the work day would come to an end, the men along with their wives, would gather around the cooking tent, and as watermelons were given to them, their laughter, and their stories could be heard.
After eating, they would toss the watermelon rinds out to the garbage pit, which was covered over later.
You know, people, we found many ways to entertain ourselves back in our young days. We did not have cable television, just a radio, which we used occasionally, not too often, as we were told, we had to conserve the radio battery.
So, of course we found ways to have fun, after our work was done, just like the Potato dance.This would have come about, after our parents had prepared the potato planting and we would find ways of having fun. The potato dance took great skill, just to balance yourself, keeping the potato on your forehead with your partner doing the very same thing, while at the same time, keeping step to music, be it a waltz or something a little faster. It was great fun, and I am so glad, it has continued, as Cody Dennis and his girlfriend demonstrated on Aboriginal day.
Then, of course, the water relay race; now that took great skill as well. This could have come from long ago when there was a house fire. Perhaps this was one means of putting the fire out.
We have a crew of fire fighters too, these young men did the Obstacle course, with their physically trained bodies in great shape, this course was nothing to them. They ran the course in a few seconds.
All of the activities at the Aboriginal Day celebrations reflected back to generations of work which our people turned into games.
This is how the Sylix people celebrated and of course our related Sylix from over the mountains share the same history.
I truly enjoyed the Aboriginal Day celebrations with my Sylix people.
We had two special guests from Australia at our celebrations as well. It was a great day to be “Indian.”
Chief Daniel Manuel thanked everyone for attending, he told the people, “ my heart is full with happiness to see you all here today. “
The day came to a close, with final words of prayer, once again thanking our Creator for the many blessings He gives to us. For prospering our people with good health and wisdom.
As always in friendship.