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  • Writer's picture Lorna Visser

Learning from our Sinixt allies at the Snk'mip Sanctuary

Beautiful interpretive sign unveiled at Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary Marilyn James, Autonomous Sinixt Matriarch (in centre, wearing the red and black scarf) and Sinixt elder Al Richardson (with his new puppy, Matsu, on Amber's lap), celebrate the unveiling of an attractive and information-packed interpretive sign at the Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary (located in Sinixt territory at the north end of Slocan Lake).

The large new sign presents comprehensive information on the Sinixt tmxʷúlaʔxʷ (territory), the marsh ecosystem, and eight keystone species. Plants and animals are described with both their English name and their name in the Sinixt dialect, Snslxcin (Interior Salish dialect). The sign project was a joint effort between the Autonomous Sinixt and the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology (VFE).

Unveiling the sign marks a milestone for Sinixt resurgence in their territory and bolsters the Autonomous Sinixt group's language revitalization work. "Language revitalization is a powerful act of Indigenous resistance. Incorporating Snslxcin into the Snk’mip project is an important step in asserting Sinixt resurgence by honouring and uplifting Sinixt sovereignty over our inherent cultural responsibilities to our təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (homeland). This project also offers the community an opportunity to speak to the plants and animals existing in Sinixt təmxʷúlaʔxʷ in a language they understand," said Marilyn James.

“We’re already seeing how school teachers can use the information on the sign as a teaching tool, and for the general public the interpretive sign provides a great orientation to the site's importance both ecologically and as a former Sinixt village called Snk’mip, located within Sinixt territory,” said VFE director Lorna Visser.

In the photo above with Marilyn and Al are supporters and allies of the Autonomous Sinixt and the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology. L. to R.: Wayne McCrory, VFE chairperson (who constructed the substantial kiosk with the help of Bryan Whelan); Al Richardson; Amber Peters, VFE biologist; supporter Ohshinnah Kayle; Lori Barkley, political anthropologist and advisor to the Autonomous Sinixt; Marilyn James; Lorna Visser, project lead for Snk’mip Marsh restoration; Mike Sarell, snake biologist; and supporter Tom Babott. All are saying “lim limpt” (thank you) for the collective effort that went into the interpretive sign project.

Credit is due to Sarah Beauchamp who developed the content for the sign and researched the complex, nuanced spellings required for the names of the featured plants and animals in the Snslxcin dialect. Sinixt language expert Taress Alexis with the help of two linguists confirmed the correct presentation of the words in Snslxcin. Artist Rü Cabodyna created the lovely watercolour illustrations, Sonya Schepkowski did the graphic design and layout, and Autonomous Sinixt projects director K.L. Kivi helped with project design and funding.

Financial support was provided by the First Peoples Cultural Council, the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, VFE individual donors, the Blood of Life Collective and the Nakusp Museum. In addition to providing paid employment, the interpretive sign project required hundreds of hours of volunteer time to complete.

The public is welcome to see the sign and enjoy the Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary, a great place to appreciate nature and experience a beautiful overlook of the marsh and view its many inhabitants. Careful, quiet observation will reveal dozens of bird species (including the two juvenile bald eagles that hatched on the property this spring), migratory swans, resident beavers and a range of amphibians and reptiles. The VFE’s restoration work has included the installation of resting benches at a variety of viewpoints so bring a snack or a thermos of tea and enjoy the beautiful surroundings (and be sure to pack out all garbage). Remember to bring bear-spray, they’re around.

Park at the top of Bonanza Creek Road in Hills, just off Highway 6, walk down the dirt driveway to the sanctuary entrance. People with disabilities can drive down to the sanctuary entrance, park in the handicapped parking spaces, and from there use the wheelchair-accessible pathway to reach the marsh-overlook viewpoint.

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