Back in the early 1950s and ’60s, our men worked hard as cowboys. I am sure they inherited this trait from many generations of men who rode horses.

The Okanagan Nation had many great horsemen. They rode horses bareback. No saddles, just the horse between their legs.

They were known for their skills in breaking horses — not literally, but training them to become horses for riding, for work as teams in pulling sleighs in winter, and pulling mowers for haying time.

One man I remember well. He was a cowboy and rode horses that were wild, right from the mountain ranges. He also rode in rodeos as a competitor.

His name was Alec Marshall. He was a member of the Upper Nicola Band, and one of my dad’s, Billy McLeod’s, best friends.

They practically grew up together. Alec did work with my dad during haying time.

There used to be a haying crew every summer with men and their wives who worked with my dad.

The crew had tents that would be set up by a creek up on the top hay fields.

There would be six or seven tents which the families used to sleep in after work. My dad provided the food for the crew. All they brought with them would be their team of horses.

One big tent was used for the kitchen. It had a big wood stove and one long table with long wooden benches on each side. My sister-in-law Elizabeth and her sister Helen would be the cooks.

The haying time is a memorable one as families gathered together after dinner, around a campfire, and would sing songs and tell stories.

Story time was also a time to learn for the young people.

This was very relaxing. As we listened to stories, we could also hear the water as it would ripple gently over the rocks. The moon from the sky being reflected on the waters over tree tops was a gift from our Creator. Our Syilx gave Him a name, which is K’welencuten, meaning “self-created.”

Alec Marshall rode in the native rodeos which were usually in Vernon or Falkland in the month of May.

Everyone tried to attend the one in Falkland as it was a big social event.

My dad and brother Clement would drive over with our family. We stayed over for several days. This event was important as my dad used to look for horses or saddlery or machinery equipment to purchase.

Falkland was the place for natives and non-native people to gather and exchange many things. My dad was always looking for new ideas to improve his cattle breeding or seeds to plant for hay.

My dad really loved his life as a rancher, and being a native man, he was proud to be Syilx. He taught my brother Clement and my adopted brother Clarence McCauley to be hard-working men, to do their very best in whatever endeavours they may have taken.

I learned much from my dad as well, mostly to treat people with respect, to honour other people and their cultures as well as their traditions.

My mom Lizzette and my dad taught me to pray, even as a little girl. I remember them both saying their prayers in our Syilx language.

Psalm 44; verse 1, “We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what work You did in their days, in the days of old.”

As always in friendship,

Jeanette McMaster
Elder, Upper Nicola Band