On September 27th, UBCO officially raised and installed the Okanagan Nation Alliance Flag. The installation was a symbol of recognition and reconciliation between the Okanagan Nation Alliance, and UBCO, who is currently on unceded Syilx Okanagan territory.
During the creation of Canada, white settlers from Europe came to what is now B.C and settled onto the traditional land of the Indigenous peoples currently there. As such, much of B.C is considered unceded, meaning it was never formally signed over to the settlers via treaties. Many institutions, including UBCO, have attempted to acknowledge the unceded territory they stand on by statements at the beginning of ceremonies, and now, the raising of the ONA flag.
Is the raising of a flag enough to symbolize reconciliation, though? Looking at some other aspects of the institution, there may be a bit of hypocrisy. For starters, the Charles E. Fipke Centre for Innovative Research building is named after a man known for mining in the Northwest Territories, a problematic industry for its takeover and destruction of indigenous land.
Second, the Indigenous Studies program is known by many students as a “joke” program – not in terms of the quality of education, but rather, in the eyes of students, and how important it is to them (which actually speaks to students of the institution).
As well, political science classes and history classes alike frequently neglect to discuss Indigenous perspectives unless explicitly outlined in the course description. Even though Indigenous self governance is increasingly important in our society, and colonization is a large part of history, the focus is on “white” ways of being. When professors take the time to mention Indigenous perspectives, it’s always as the “other”, a form of separating Indigenous ways of being from what is normal.
UBCO is, as is every other university, a business that largely relies on donors for funding, and works with a massive amount of faculty and students daily. So, there is a level of understanding that can be given to the Fipke building, or to the students opinions. The statues, the flag, and the land acknowledgements are absolutely a step in the right direction, towards a future of reconciliation and equality. There are, however, clear steps that still need to be taken.
The raising of the flag was an important occasion that hopefully signifies the continuation of UBCO’s effort to indigenize the institution.
Next time you walk past the flag, pay attention to what it symbolizes, and be aware of the land you stand on.