St. Eugene Mission Resort, Ktunaxa Nation, near Cranbrook in BC’s Kootenay Rockies.
This conference is intentionally taking place at St. Eugene Mission Resort, the site of a former residential school that is now owned and operated by the Ktunaxa Nation as a vehicle for education and economic development. As Elder Mary Paul said, “It is said that, since it was within the St. Eugene Mission that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it is returned”.
St. Eugene is nestled beside the St. Mary’s River in the Kootenay Rockies, just 5 minutes from the Canadian Rockies International Airport. St. Eugene was selected for its retreat style setting, beautiful natural environment, ownership by the Ktunaxa Nation and commitment to environmental sustainability. The goal of the resort is to “create a destination of choice in harmony with Mother Earth and our Indigenous culture while providing for our families and enriching our community”.
St. Eugene Mission Resort is owned by several Ktunaxa communities: ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, ʔaq̓am, ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains), yaqan nukiy (Lower Kootenay) and Kyaknuq+i?it – the Shuswap Indian Band. The resort is home to the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre. Operated by the Ktunaxa Nation Council, the Interpretive Centre is where the Ktunaxa people come together to give visitors a taste of their rich heritage, mythology and culture. An Aboriginal Elder Advisory Group has just recently been formulated to help with Cultural & Heritage issues related to the resort’s operations and procedures as well as the lands & wildlife.
The resort won the 2009 B.C. Aboriginal Tourism Conservation Award and the 2011 CGSA Environmental Achievement Award, and their golf course is certified under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. This certification ensures the enhancement of the local natural areas and wildlife habitats, improves efficiency, and minimizes potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations. The endangered Townsend Long-eared Bats, Badger, Bald Eagle, Painted Turtle, and Great Blue Heron have all taken up residence and made St. Eugene their home. 150 bird species are prevalent on this 327 acre property and Kokanee, the land locked salmon, are once again spawning in Joseph Creek.
St. Eugene Resort is a proud member of:
- Audubon Co-operative Sanctuary System
- Ducks Unlimited.
- Partnership with BC Hydro’s Power Smart program
- British Columbia Water & Waste Association
- Audubon Greenleaf Eco-Rating
- Trip Advisor Green Survey
The Ktunaxa language is known as a cultural isolate language – an exceptionally unique language unlike and unrelated to any other in the world – and it is critically endangered.
The goal at ʔaq’am is to foster fluent Ktunaxa language speakers with strong cultural skills and knowledge. Because it is critical to begin Ktunaxa language education as early as possible and to encourage the development of Ktunaxa language skills among children and parents alike, they try make language lessons and resources easily accessible to all learners. They teach language and culture at ʔaq̓amnik’ School and through programs like Head Start and fully support and honour fluent speakers, learners and teachers.
They continue to record and document the Ktunaxa language to ensure that it is accessible to future generations. Through the Ktunaxa Community Portal on FirstVoices.com, online visitors can read, listen to, and learn words, phrases, songs, stories, games and more. Learners can also access the Ktunaxa Language app – a media-rich bilingual dictionary and phrase collection comprised of words and phrases archived at the online Aboriginal language database FirstVoices.com – through iTunes.
The College of the Rockies also offers an online University Studies course in Basic Ktunaxa. The program aims to help students develop the skills, strategies and resources to support the revitalization of Ktunaxa language in their homes, their schools and their communities.
To learn more about the Ktunaxa language, watch Living the Language – Canada: The Ktunaxa, a short and fascinating documentary produced by Al Jazeera, which chronicles the history of our language and the efforts being made to preserve it.