History & Heritage


A Rich Past…

Historical Overview of the Westside (West Kelowna & Westbank, BC)

westbank museum west kelowna

The area is steeped in history with stories from the nsyilxcen speaking people as well as the European settlers to the area. The captikʷəɬ (ancient stories) of the nsyilxcen speaking have been passed down from each generation. It wasn’t until 1811 that the area began to see Europeans and by way of the Hudson’s Bay Fur Brigade and Old Caribou Trails in 1811.

With the onset of settlers came entrepreneurs and new transportation corridors. A full time line of historical milestones can be found here.


Westbank First Nation is one of eight bands comprising the Okanagan Nation – nqilxʷcn / nsyilxcen speaking people whose territory runs into Washington State. They have lived in the Kelowna, kiʔlawnaʔ and Westbank, stqaʔtkʷəɬniwt area from time immemorial. A recent excavation near the new bridge uncovered artifacts that date back thousands of years, proving Westbank First Nation’s (WFN) existence and their title to the land.

nqilxʷcn / nsyilxcen – the Okanagan Language
The nqilxʷcn /nsyilxcen language is taught in many schools in the Okanagan, from the band run sensisyusten School to Mt. Boucherie Secondary School. Public Schools in the Central Okanagan also participate in the Aboriginal Education Program where they acknowledge that they are on the Traditional Territory of the Okanagan Nation – The syilx People and students participate in cultural days and traditions of the syilx People, along with additional services for students who are of Aboriginal ancestry.
pictographs Westbank First Nation West KelownaThe Okanagan is full of nqlixʷcn /nsyilxcen place names: Here are just a few:

Kelowna     kiʔlawnaʔ grizzly bear
Penticton     sənpintktən main village
Osoyoos     swiws piece of narrow land


Sncəwips (sen-ch-wee-ps) Heritage Museum

The Museum represents and focuses on the heritage of WFN and stories of Okanagan Nation, First Nation people across Canada, and the World.

The syilx/Okanagan name, sncəwips iʔ sqilxʷ sncəx̌ʷiɬxʷtn, is a metaphor for “heritage”. In translation, it means a building or house image of multiple colours – a protector of First Nation heritage.

Displays include some of WFN’s extensive collections such as archaeological artifacts, historical and contemporary art, archives, and utilitarian (baskets, tools).

The Museum will is open Monday – Friday 10 am – 4 pm |  201 – 1979 Old Okanagan Highway

Pit House/ qʷc̓iʔ
Always round in configuration, this recreated traditional structure was used as a place to live, tell stories, celebrate and store food. It can be viewed by appointment with a WFN guide. Please call the Heritage Officer/Curator at 778.755.2787 for more information.

Whispering Garden/ sqəlʷsk̓ʷanɬq
Located next to the Pit House, qʷc̓iʔ , an indigenous garden is kept and maintained. Traditional plants such as Grandfather Sage, Saskatoon Berry and Bitterroot can be found here. The garden is primarily occupied with growing foods and traditional plant medicines.

Here is some interesting information about the Westbank First Nation Peoples and government:

•WFN obtained self government status in 2005
•WFN has 640 band members – 436 live on reserve lands
•Over 9,000 non aboriginal people live on the WFN lands
•Walmart, SuperStore, Home Depot and many other businesses operate on WFN land.
•WFN has four food chiefs: skəmxist (Bear), ntytyix (Salmon), spʼiƛ̕əm (bitterroot), siyaʔ (Saskatoon berry)
•Ogopogo / nx̌aʔx̌ʔitkʷ is on the WFN logo and is of Okanagan origin




Gellatly Nut Farm
Gellatlly Nut FArm West KelownaThe Gellatly Nut Farm is now a regional park and it is currently the oldest working nut farm in BC. Prior to becoming a regional park, it was owned by the Gellatly family, where they not only grew nuts, but also planted several other crops, including tomatoes. In the 1907 David Gellatly Sr. became known as the “Tomato King of the Okanagan”. The Gellatly family was very resourceful in creating products from their goods, including delicious candies using ground nuts and honey as well as creating a syrup from the condensed sap of the walnut trees. The history of the nut farm dates back to 1905 when David Gellatly Jr began testing nuts suitable for cultivation in Canada. Because of his research, other nut breeders across North America have been able to benefit from his studies and experimentation into hardy nut growing and breeding. Park Open Daily. 2375 Whitworth Rd, West Kelowna, BC. For more information: http://www.regionaldistrict.com/services/parks-services/regional-parks/gellatly-nut-farm-regional-park.aspx

Gellatly Heritage Park
Heritage West Kelowna WestbankA restored log home and barn and the century-old Gellatly family cemetery can be seen at the Gellatly Heritage Regional Park. There is also a short interpretive trail and picnic area on site. This heritage park opened the summer of 2000. Park Open Daily. (From Hwy 97, turn sound at the Glenrosa Interchange. Follow Gellatly Rd south – it will be on your right hand side) For more information: http://www.regionaldistrict.com/services/parks-services/regional-parks/gellatly-heritage-regional-park.aspx




Hudson’s Bay Fur Brigade Trail/ nqəlxʷaqs
The sqilxʷ had trails along the t̓ik̓ʷt Okanagan Lake before contact, which the Fur Brigade used later. There are parts of Highway 97 which are part of the nqəlxʷaqs.

This important trail was used by French and English fur traders to trade with First Nation People to supply the demands of fashion in Europe and parts of Asia. Because of this trail, many towns in the interior of BC became to be and 2011 marked the Bicentennial of the Okanagan route of the trail, where traders travelled from Fort Okanogan to Fort Kamloops. The trail fell out of use by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1946 when the 49th parallel became the border between Canada and the United States and the route moved west to Fort Hope and Fort Langley. The Okanagan portion of the trail was still used by missionaries, travellers and miners, opening up the valley to new settlers.

Fintry Provincial Park
The delta at Fintry was named after Captain James Cameron Dun-Water’s home in Scotland. He fell in love with the area on one of his journeys and purchased the land 1908. Today visitors can tour the heritage buildings onsite, including the manor house, octagonal barn and packing house. 7655 Fintry Delta Rd, Kelowna, BC (Just off Westside Rd). For more information: http://www.fintry.ca/