Valentines is a day to remember our loved ones, past and present.
Our people have known about love, but not in the commercial sense.
We never thought of looking for love when we were young, we were too busy learning to be productive adults.
Young women often went to the mountains for several days, to fast, learn to live off the land, and survive.
Our physical bodies were to be prized, and when the time came to marry, we gave our bodies to our spouse.
This was true for both men and women.
Young men also went to the mountains, where they fasted, prayed, learned to hunt, and to survive in the wilderness.
The men were taught to honour their women, to never abuse or be unfaithful to their spouses, and to provide for them the best way possible.
Elders often looked for a men of distinction to become husbands for their granddaughters.
Likewise, elders also sought out women who had reputations of honour and great skills.
This took place at gatherings, where our people would entertain each other with dances, songs, and gifts to each family group.
The young women brought their handmade buckskin gloves, jackets, or other items which they made, to display at the gatherings.
Young men would speak in the gatherings; telling of their achievements as hunters, or other skills they had.
This was a time to introduce daughters and sons to other people and a chance to make sure they were aware of their relatives, so that they did not marry into their own families.
Gifts to family groups would include game meat, such as deer, moose, salmon, or other food that supplied the needs of the family.
This was also a custom when a young man visited another territory. He would bring a gift to the residing chief, to honour and respect the people and that territory.
The teachings from our parents and grandparents were often very strict, their observances making sure we learned everything correctly. They taught us in this manner, to protect us from future mistakes in our adult years.
Some of the people mislaid these teachings when they went to residential schools, while others still maintain the teachings.
Today our young men and women do not take seriously enough relationships such as marriage or even courtship.
A young man would seek approval from the father of the girl he wished to court.
If the father approved, then the courtship would begin.
Arranged marriages were never a practice of the Okanagan people.
However, approval by the parents was important.
Courtships were done in a manner that was respectable; this meant the couple had an opportunity to get to know each other.
If marriage was a possibility, the elders came in to teach further about problems and how to resolve them.
Problems like when misunderstandings would arise and the importance of forgiveness.
This is crucial in any relationship.
To learn to forgive and not hold onto anger until it takes over in one’s heart.
I believe the teachings of our elders made sense. Their marriages lasted until the other passed away, there was never any divorce.
One of the teachings I remember well, my mom Lizzette told me, “Never talk about your husband behind his back, to his friends or your friend, because, your friends will talk about what you said, your words will travel from one person to another, until it reaches the ears of your husband.
Of course, your friends will have added onto your words.
By the time your husband hears what you said it will not be what you said in the beginning.
If you have something to say to him, tell him to his face. And not in anger, wait until you are no longer angry, then speak to him in a good, kind manner.”
My mom did teach me well; at times her words would make me cry. She said one day, “You cry, because my words have entered into your heart, that is good, then you will never forget what I said to you my daughter.”
That is what real love is all about; romance was done the traditional Okanagan way back then.
I hope that returns, so our young people will have stable relationships and marriages that last till one or the other goes home to our Creator.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone,
As always in friendship.