In 1860 August Gillard emerged from his underground winter soddy draped in fur and blinking at the blinding sunlight. A group of First Nations people stood outside, drawn to Gillard’s humble dwelling by a rising stream of smoke. They named him “Kim-ach-Touch”, Syilx for grizzly bear. Thirty years later, this word became the name of a small settler town hidden within the B.C. interior.
Today, Kelowna is also emerging from hibernation and tracking towards a new chapter in its history. One that balances a history of beaches, peaches, silver mining and settlement with a modern, urban twist.
Here are five activities for a weekend warrior hoping to dive into the rich history of this grizzly bear city.
The glacial retreat and receding waters of Okanagan Lake left behind rich, fertile sediment — land perfectly suited to the nomadic Sylix First Nation. And today, these same fertile lands serve their ancestors through Indigenous World Winery, the first fully Indigenous-owned winery in North America.
Opened in 2016, this new addition to the Okanagan’s tapestry of famous wineries merges traditional art and wisdom with modern culture and techniques. The winery’s first Bordeaux was given the ancestral family name of Simo, which means “connected to the land” and animals of Indigenous significance, like the eagle and fox, are featured on the labels.