New Fire

Revitalizing ceremony in the Okanagan

Many First Nations have their own traditions that mark the transition to womanhood or manhood - in the Okanagan Nation of BC, one of those traditions is coming back.
Alexa Manuel is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus.

Many First Nations have their own traditions that mark the transition to womanhood or manhood.

But they're harder and harder to find, thanks in part to the cultural impacts of residential schools and the influence of Christianity.

In the Okanagan Nation of BC, one of those traditions is coming back.

Starting at puberty, Alexa Manuel spent just over a year taking part in a coming-of-age "13 moon ceremony."

"My Auntie Trish, my father's sister, she started the training in 1994 as a way of healing the intergenerational traumas of the residential schools that happened within my family," said Alexa, who is from the Upper Nicola Okanagan Nation in BC.

From standing in an ice-cold river, to avoiding interaction with boys, Alexa and members of her family have taken it upon themselves to revitalize this tradition.

Alexa says there's been resistance to what they're doing. 

"My aunt has said there were a lot of older community members that were still influenced by Catholicism and residential schools and they actually told her that our rights of passage ceremonies are heathen and they were best left in the past," she said.

To hear more of Alexa's story, click the 'listen' button above.

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