Skip the summer crowds and feel the real warmth of the South Okanagan with an Indigenous-inspired getaway to Osoyoos this fall
Standing in a semicircle, our group watches in awe as Dyawen Louis, a young interpreter with the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre, beats on his buckskin drum, the acoustics echoing across the Osoyoos valley that spreads behind him. Closing his eyes, he begins to sing a traditional welcome song, his voice cooly contrasting with the drum’s rhythmic beats and the silence of the crisp morning. Grins spread across our faces and we nod our respect as he finishes his last note and opens his eyes to the sky, his passion almost palpable.
Shayd JohnsonThis is the perfect way to begin our day of exploring the Indigenous cultural and culinary offerings of the region, a region that is best known for its sun-drenched lakes and award-winning wines, thanks to its designation as Canada's most unique desert landscape. Just beneath the surface of all of that joyous summer splashing and wine tasting is a deep-rooted history, one that thrives through the sharing of stories, songs and seasonal ingredients grown on the sacred land of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
This season, experience the cultural and culinary offerings of the Syilx/Okanagan people, while enjoying the wine and warm weather of the region, without the crowds.
Here’s how to experience the inspiring Indigenous offerings of Osoyoos this fall...
From an uphill hike to the top of a bluff to a simple stroll along the edge of a river, these outdoor spots are perfect for perusing the colours of fall, while connecting with the culturally rich Indigenous sites of the region.
Brendin Bailey/Indigenous WorxHead to nʕaylintn (Ny-lin-tn), formerly known as McIntyre Bluff and hike to the top, where you can take in breathtaking, bird’s eye views of both Oliver and Osoyoos. Rich in Syilx First Nations history, this iconic landmark towers 265 metres above the valley floor, and from a distance, its shape resembles the feathered headdress of an Indian chief. According to the area’s First Nations elders, the bluff was once the site of a battle centuries ago, where an enemy war party from the south was lured to the top and then driven off the cliffs. Some say at full moon, you can see the ghosts of the warriors dancing along the cliff’s edge.
A stroll through Sẁiẁs (s-wee-yous) Provincial Park, formerly known as Haynes Point, is a great way to admire the colourful fall foliage while marvelling at Osoyoos Lake, known as Canada’s warmest lake. Walk along the park’s 80 metres of boardwalk, and then take in the scenery from the end of the viewing platform. Here, you’ll see the connecting point between both sides of the lake, where Osoyoos Indian Band ancestors once crossed by horse and foot, and after which the region was named. Beneath the lake’s floor is a sacred burial ground where the bones of the oldest ancestors of the Osoyoos Indian Band were found and reburied in their honour.
Bianca Bujansx̌wəx̌wnitkw (s-wuh-wuneet-kw) park, formerly known as Okanagan Falls Park, is a beautiful site to explore in the fall. There, you can see the stunning statue of The Salmon Chief, marking the autumn gathering site of the Okanagan Nations, where they meet to celebrate and share the harvest of the abundant Sockeye salmon that are returning from their long journey to the Pacific Ocean each year. Be sure to walk over to the river where you can see the falls (after which the surrounding town of Okanagan Falls was named) and if you’re lucky, spot salmon as they swim upstream.
Bianca BujanBring it all together with a visit to the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre, located right next to Spirit Ridge Resort. Here, you can learn about the land, legends, and traditions of the Syilx/Okanagan people through hands-on displays, guided walks, performances and more. Be sure to take a walk along the centre’s two-kilometre boardwalk, where you can explore the antelope and sage desert, Ponderosa Pine forest, rugged hills, and shady creek habitats in what is known as “Canada’s pocket desert”.
For more ways to explore Indigenous culture in Osoyoos this season, check out these fall getaway offerings available to visitors by the Osoyoos Indian Band.
Spirit Ridge ResortAfter a day of exploring the area, fuel up on authentic Indigenous-inspired cuisine at The Bear, The Fish, The Root and The Berry, the restaurant found on site at Spirit Ridge Resort. Named after the legend of the Four Food Chiefs: Skimxist (Bear), Ntytikxw (Salmon), Speetlum (Bitterroot) and Seeya (Saskatoon berry), this newly re-launched restaurant focuses on fresh flavours found and foraged in and around the region.
Bianca BujanOffering a modern take on traditional dishes like bannock (try the bannock and spreads starter to share), and salmon (try the Salmon Platter, Ntytikxw), the menu is inspired by acclaimed executive chef Murray McDonald (the founding chef of the famous Fogo Inn) and his Indigenous roots. Dine on bison, bannock and berries, and be sure to delight in a sweet dessert (the Strawberries and Honey is perfection) prepared by talented pastry chef Tammy Maki, a proud member of White Bear First Nations from Saskatchewan.
Jon AdrianRight next door, you’ll find NK’Mip Cellars, the first Aboriginal-owned winery in North America, and home to the first Indigenous winemaker in North America, Justin Hall. Sip on award-winning wines such as the Dreamcatcher (a blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Ehrenfelser and Pinot Blanc), and the Qwam Qwmt Syrah (the 2016 Syrah is a personal favourite), while hearing about the history that is housed in the land on which the grapes are grown.
Facebook/Spirit Ridge B.C.Overlooking the stunning South Okanagan valley, and framed by majestic mountains, verdure vineyards and dry desert landscapes, Spirit Ridge Resort is the ideal spot for rest and relaxation. The first property in Canada to join the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, a collection of unique, story-worthy stay experiences, Spirit Ridge is an all-suites escape fit for travellers of all types, and a have-it-all homebase for your Indigenous cultural and culinary explorations this fall.