by Kerstin Auer —

The Upper Nicola Band (UNB) is hosting a Unity Run on Saturday, May 27th. It is modeled after the Okanagan Nation’s annual Unity Run, with their 2023 iteration being held from July 2-6, starting in Penticton and ending in Christina Lake. 

The multi-day event includes all seven bands of the Okanagan Nation and has stops in several communities; to make the event more accessible for their band members, the UNB decided to hold their own run on a local level, in partnership with the RCMP Indigenous policing services team as well as Scw’exmx Child and Family Services.

The goal of the Okanagan Nation Unity Run is to spread awareness about suicide prevention and to make space for people to talk about mental health. 

“What we want to do with Upper Nicola is to have the same kind of message, same kind of opportunity, and space to provide to our members to spread awareness for suicide prevention, but also to provide us with an opportunity to gather and spend time with one another and to spend time within our own land, within our own territory,” said Buzz Manuel Jr., cultural event coordinator with the Upper Nicola Band.

While the UNB is planning on ordering commemorative t-shirts for this event, they also want to encourage attendees to wear other colours with special meaning, like orange and pink, usually worn on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Pink Shirt Day to stand up against bullying, respectively. 

“What we want to do is to keep remembering those causes. We don’t just want to have the orange shirt for one day and the pink shirt for one day of the year; we want people to keep spreading the word, keep commemorating the cause that they are really concerned for, and to practise it,” noted Manuel.

On May 27th, registration for the UNB Unity Run will open at 8 am at Quilchena Church, followed by an opening prayer and the beginning of the run at 9 am. Participants will run in pairs, and the first set of runners will be presented with a feather by one of the UNB elders. The feather will travel the whole distance of the run, being handed off to the next duo of runners after each leg of the run, one kilometer in length. 

“It’s a community relay, it’s part of the unity we are looking to achieve,” added Manuel.

The response from the community has been good according to Manuel, everyone is excited and looking forward to the date. Approximately 40 runners will participate, with walk-run training sessions starting last week and being held on Wednesdays up until the event. UNB staff will be training during their lunch hour and a community training session will be from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

For more information, call Manuel at 250-315-3457.