Arts & Culture

The Influence of Indigenous Culture on Kelowna

a totema hanging on a wall in a museum display case with a glass case holding it in the shape of a totema
Kelowna Art Gallery

Introduction to Indigenous Influence in Kelowna

For many years, Kelowna has been a city of cultural diversity, an economic hub, and a treasured tourist hotspot. Part of what makes Kelowna such an exciting city can be traced back to the influence of indigenous culture. Indigenous peoples in the Okanagan Valley have left a potent legacy, as seen in the city's art, food, music, and community events.

Art and Symbolism

The indigenous culture of Kelowna spans thousands of years, creating and shaping artistic styles and symbols that are still used today. Throughout this city, you can see murals painted with animal-spirit motifs, a common theme in native folklore. The murals often carry profound spiritual and historical narratives, reflecting the worldview and principles of the indigenous people. Kelowna's Art Gallery has regular exhibitions featuring the work of talented indigenous artists, further highlighting their influence.

Music and Tribal Rhythms

From First Nations songs and dances to the use of traditional instruments, the Indigenous influence on music is apparent in Kelowna. Bells, drums, rattles, and chanters have been used for centuries during ceremonial events, giving Kelowna a rich musical mix that resonates with history. Many music festivals across the city showcase indigenous performers, drawing massive crowds who come to experience the hypnotic and powerful sounds of indigenous music.

Indigenous Cuisine in Kelowna

The contribution of indigenous culture to Kelowna's culinary scene is quite significant. Establishments like the Indigenous World Winery, the first Indigenous-owned winery in the Okanagan province, marry traditional indigenous knowledge with modern technology to produce high quality and award-winning wines. In addition, the Kekuli Cafe is renowned for its bannock, a type of traditional bread. The recipe for bannock has been passed down through generations and is served in various forms such as tacos or flatbread, exemplifying the fusion of traditional indigenous and modern Canadian cuisines.

Celebrations and Festivals

Perhaps one of the most visible ways indigenous influence can be seen in Kelowna is through the various festivals and community events celebrated throughout the year. These occasions uphold traditions, history, and the legacy of its indigenous people. The most well-known of these is the National Indigenous Peoples Day, which takes place every year on 21st June. The event showcases unique tribal customs, rituals, music, and art, and is a display of the dynamic blend of cultures that make up this extraordinary city.

Environmental Stewardship

The Syilx/Okanagan people, the indigenous people of Kelowna, have always had deep respect for nature, viewing it as a living entity that both gives life and requires care. This reverence has seeped into Kelowna's societal ethos, inspiring sustainable practices throughout the city. The indigenous community continues to be at the forefront of environmental advocacy, influencing the city to adopt waste management, water conservation and other sustainable initiatives.


Steeped deeply in the city's fabric, the indigenous culture has influenced Kelowna's art, music, cuisine and the way of life. It reflects a respect for tradition, creativity, the spirit of community, and environmental preservation. As we explore the fascinating city of Kelowna, appreciating its beauty, tasting its delectable cuisine, and immersing ourselves in its culture, it's important to remember and respect the longstanding indigenous influence that has shaped it into the dynamic city it is today.