Mural at Okanagan College honours residential school survivors
A large mural that honours residential school survivors has been unveiled at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, designed and painted by Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis.
Titled suʔkncut’s prayers, the acrylic latex mural measures 10 feet tall by 21 feet wide and raises awareness about the legacy and impacts of the residential school system. The mural was officially unveiled Nov. 24 with a special ceremony at OC’s Kelowna campus.
“The mural signifies Okanagan College’s lasting commitment to advancing truth and reconciliation at our campuses,” says Rhea Dupuis, Director of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation at the College. “As a post-secondary institution, it’s important to remember that the impact of the Residential School system continues to this day, and this mural serves to remind us of that.”
Students, employees and visitors to the Health Sciences Centre will find the new mural on the first floor, which is also home to nearby Early Childhood Education classrooms and the Four Food Chiefs sculpture created by Clint George in 2021.
“With the location of this mural being near the Early Childhood Education classrooms at Okanagan College, I wanted to take the opportunity to bring awareness to educators about the legacy of the residential school system,” says Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis.
On the mural are nsyilxcen words “kʷu swiʔ nu̓ mtxʔ,” which roughly translate to “we are beautiful.”
“This is a reminder to our children that they are beautiful, and it is a reminder to our residential school survivors that they are beautiful,” adds Louis.
Also depicted on the mural are orange flowers and a woman with a child. The flowers represent the children who never made it home from residential school. Representing a motherly spirit or ancestor, the woman looks over those children and the young boy: a representation of the future – the breaking of cycles.
Okanagan College is grateful to community donors for their financial support of this mural, including Kelly Rockvam and her daughter Sianna, and the KiraGoodFund.
A member of Bonaparte First Nation and a Registered Nurse with Okanagan Skin Care Centre, Rockvam felt inspired after touring the College’s new Health Sciences Centre, compelling her to donate to the Our Students, Your Health campaign.
“If I can support the community in a small way, because it’s been good to me, that’s a total win-win,” says Rockvam. “Seeing our culture celebrated is very meaningful, and I’m hoping it will inspire more inclusivity in education and health care.”
“Okanagan College is committed to being an active participant in reconciliation and decolonialization,” said Juliette Cunningham, board chair, Okanagan College. “This mural makes our commitment visible and will be a reminder to students, staff and community members of our collective responsibility to residential school survivors and their families. It’s fitting that this is outside of the Kira Goodwin Early Childhood Education Classroom. Our Board of Governors is deeply grateful to the donors who both share and are supportive of our efforts to weave Indigenous perspectives into all aspects of college life at OC.”
The KiraGoodFund contributed to the mural, in honour of the memory of Kira Goodwin, a passionate NICU Registered Nurse, who believed that all children matter.
To learn more about the mural, please visit okanagan.bc.ca/sukncuts-prayers.
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