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Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre – history and culture combined with a desert ecology lesson.

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By Jonathon Reynolds 

 

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre (pronounced in-ka-meep) is located right beside Spirit Ridge Resort and Spa and is a must visit for anyone staying at the resort – or for anyone visiting Osoyoos. The building itself blends into the land setting the tone for the knowledge we discovered inside and on the trails around the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Much of the interior is devoted to explaining both the local history of the Osoyoos Indian band – and they own the centre so you can be sure they have the story perfectly right. The other main focus of the exhibits inside – which include a live rattlesnake show – focus on the ecology of the surrounding desert. Although there is some debate about whether this is indeed an actual desert there is no debate about how fragile and beautiful it is.

 

I was particularly moved by the drawings and painting of the native children from the 1940’s and earlier. They depict a way of life that was passing (although it seems the Osoyoos band has managed to hold on to some of this culture) and it is shown in the clear vision of a children’s art. Outside we walked the 2 km of trail – and it gets hot in the sun even in October – which led us to a pit house, sweat lodge and other native displays. We left with a great appreciation of the native people and this environment. If we had more time I think we would have liked to go on a guided hike or a rappelling session to get to know the region even better. Scattered through the Cultural Centre’s grounds are sculptures which are obviously by the same artist as the mounted Indian at the entrance. On returning to the Centre I found out that the sculptor is Smoker Marchand - a native sculptor from Omak Washington who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe New Mexico. Smoker was a mission school child who ran away 5 times – he knows the trials of these people a he is one himself. His knowledge of the connection between the people and the land is evident in the sculptures.