Upper Nicola Indian Band is set to host a first-of-its-kind event focused on genealogical trees.
On Feb. 9 and 10, Upper Nicola Indian Band (UNB) members and residents are invited to gather at the Merritt Civic Centre at 2 p.m., for a unique learning experience. The ‘Ancestors’ Family Tree’ event will feature a series of workshops on family tree research, historical photos and using the Nicola Valley Museum & Archives as a source.
Carol Holmes, chairperson at Upper Nicola’s Kwu Stemtima? (grandmother’s group), said that the workshop will provide opportunities for UNB members and residents to find the tools they need to learn more about their own stories.
“Whether it’s online or different types of web links, to hands-on activities, we’ll have different workshops based on information on where people can find more information about who they are,” she said.
Debra Manuel, director of relations at Upper Nicola’s Kwu Stemtima?, added that it’s within Indigenous culture to know about your origins.
“It’s just something our ancestors really believed in, the importance of who you’re related to,” Manuel said. “Because it doesn’t matter where you go, you should be able to stop in that town and visit.”
Manuel also added that knowing your relations and family members is also important because each member in the family has a role to play, whether that is taking care of the younger ones or helping with the teachings.
Holmes said the main goal of the event is to help members learn more about their story.
“Encouraging others to do some of the teachings that Debra had mentioned, carry on some of the teachings to the younger generation,” Holmes said. “Because with all changes, the importance of knowing who we are and where we come from has gone to the sidelines and so people, unless they’ve been taught by their family, don’t necessarily know who their relatives are.”
When it comes to sharing their traditions, culture and history, Indigenous Peoples often rely on passing their knowledge orally. Holmes said that due to colonialism and the oral tradition, there’s a limit of how much information people can gather.
“By accessing some of the tools online or some of the documents, whether it;s books or other places, we’re only able to go back a little bit further, but then it’s been able to validate that this is accurate, this is true to who we are,” she said. “By taking back some of the information, whether it’s in the museum or whether it’s some information online, we’re able to connect a bit further back.”
For Manuel, other challenges of gathering all the documents and names that people might need for their family tree is related to the emotional aspect of it.
“There’s always a part of emotion in family trees, right? So whether it’s grief, loss, excitement, anger, all of those, I think that’s the hardest part of a family tree,” she said. “Sometimes stories come up and families may say ‘we don’t want to talk about this’, so it’s honouring that part and it’s not for us to talk about, it’s for the families to talk about.”
Manuel added that a lot has been lost in regards to spelling of names, especially once Indigenous Peoples were forced to go to residential schools.
“With some of the surveys, you could see where our Indigenous names were used, and so you’ll see where there was an attempt to write the Indigenous names in English,” she said. “So when we talk about our family trees, our Indigenous names are part of who we are and a lot of that information is lost.”
Holmes added that the pioneering event on genealogical trees marks a significant milestone in the journey towards Indigenous cultural revitalization.
“I think that the focus is who we are as Syilx, who we are as First Nations people and doing our best search because I think in doing research for other people, non-First Nations, their route of doing research may be a little bit different and their humanity may be able to go further back, right? So this is who we are.”