Four Food Chiefs sculpture

Four Food Chiefs Sculpture

About the sculpture


Wapupxn - Clint George 
SnPink’tn - Penticton Indian Band


The sculptural image of the Four Food Chiefs is conveyed through artist, Clint George’s eyes. This story is for everybody, and Clint encourages you to reflect on what this story means to you. 


The Four Food Chiefs is located in the Atrium of the Health Sciences Centre at the Kelowna campus.

Video of the sculpture

Images of the sculpture

The Syilx Okanagan People

Oral history (or captikʷɬ) of the Syilx Okanagan Nation by Okanagan Nation Alliance.

For thousands of years, Syilx Okanagan People were self-reliant and well provided for through our own ingenuity and use of the land and nature. We lived united as a Nation with a whole economy, travelling the breadth and depth of our territory, hunting and fishing, growing and harvesting, crafting and trading to meet our needs. Syilx ceremonies and practices continue to reflect generations of knowledge, respect and honour for food animals, and plant harvests, as identified here in their respective moons.

How food was given captikʷɬ

In the world before this world, before there were people, and before things were like they are now, everyone was alive and walking around like we do. All creation was talking about the coming changes to their world. They had been told that soon a new kind of people would be living on this earth. Even they, the Animals and Plant People, would be changed. They had to decide how the People-To-Be would live and what they would eat. The Four Chiefs were: skəmxist (Bear), n’tyxtix (Salmon), spitlem (Bitterroot) and siyaʔ (Saskatoon). They held many meetings and talked for a long time about what the People-To-Be would need to live. All of the Chiefs thought and thought. “What can we give to the People-To-Be to eat that is already here on earth? There seems to be no answer.”

Finally, the three other Chiefs said to skəmxist, “You are the wisest and the oldest among us. You tell us what you are going to do.” skəmxist said, “Since you have all placed your trust in me, I will have to do the best I can.” He thought for a long time and finally he said, “I will give myself, and all the animals that I am Chief over, to be food for the People-To-Be.” Then he said to n’tyxtix, “What will you do?” n’tyxtix answered, “You are indeed the wisest among us. I will also give myself and all the things that live in the water as food for the People-To-Be.” spitlem, what was Chief of All-the-Roots-Under-the-Ground said, “I will do the same.” Siyaʔ was last. He said, “I will do the same.” All the good things that grow above the ground will be the food for the People-To-Be.

Chief skəmxist was happy because there would be enough food for the People-To-Be.  He said, “Now I will lay my life down to make these things happen.” Because he was the greatest Chief and had given his life, all of the People-That-Were (the Animal People) gathered and sang songs to bring him back to life.  That was how they helped heal each other in that world. They all took turns singing, but skəmxist did not come back to life. Finally, Fly came along.  He sang, “You laid your body down.  You laid your life down.” His song was powerful. skəmxist came back to life. Then Fly told the Four Chiefs, “When the People-To-Be are here and they take your body for food, they will sing this song. They will cry their thanks with this song.” Then skəmxist spoke for all the Chiefs. “From now on when the People-To-Be come, everything will have its own song. The People-To-Be will use these songs to help each other as you have helped me.”

That is how food was given to our People. That is how songs were given to our People. That is how giving and helping one another was and still is taught to our People. That is why we must respect even the smallest, weakest persons for what they can contribute. That is why we give thanks and honour to what is given to us. 

This oral history (or captikʷɬ) of the Syilx Okanagan Nation is an adaptation of this story and is intended for educational purposes only. No part of the text may be translated, modified, or used for commercial purposes or used in a publication without the express written permission of the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

This project was made possible with the generous help of Syilx communities, Elders and Knowledge Keepers. “lim’ləmt”


Made possible through the collaborative efforts of Westbank First Nation (WFN), and the WFN Public Arts Committee. 

Okanagan College is grateful to Factions Projects Inc., GEC Architecture, and Stuart Olson Inc. For their generous support towards the Four Food Chiefs sculpture.