Next week, Feb. 15 to Feb. 21, is Heritage Week across Canada.
It is an occasion to celebrate heritage in all its forms. The theme of Heritage Week this year is “Where do you find heritage?”
UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization that protects sites of world significance, states: “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today and we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration, our touchstone, our reference point, our identity.”
Kamloops is endowed with cultural and natural heritage. The most familiar examples of cultural heritage are historic buildings, also called “built heritage.”
Bridges, civic parks, trails and cemeteries are other examples of cultural heritage. Natural heritage includes provincial parks and protected areas that preserve specific features of the landscape, such as waterfalls, hoodoos, and what are known to the Secwépemc as Coyote rocks.
Some buildings have been restored, such as St. Andrews on the Square at Seymour Street and Second Avenue, originally the first Presbyterian Church and the oldest public building in Kamloops, the brick Inland Cigar Factory at First Avenue and Seymour Street and the Freemont Block on Victoria Street, named after the first black city councillor.
A few buildings are designated heritage sites, such as the Old Courthouse at Seymour Street and First Avenue, the most outstanding structure in Kamloops. Many others, including houses in the West End, have been recognized by the city with heritage plaques.
The Pioneer Cemetery, the Red Bridge, Riverside Park and the Xget’tem’ Trail are examples of cultural heritage.
All these buildings and sites symbolize and tell the story of the growth of the city and its people.
There have been setbacks when certain buildings have been demolished in the face of development, but those that have been preserved are a testament to the belief we should save some of the past for posterity.
But heritage encompasses more than the physical world. There are also intangible forms of heritage, defined by UNESCO as “non-physical intellectual wealth, meaning unique aspects of human culture, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge and language, such as community gatherings, oral traditions, songs, knowledge of natural spaces, healing traditions, foods, holidays, beliefs, cultural practices, skills of making handicrafts, methods of agriculture.”
Many elements of intangible cultural heritage are integral parts to life in both rural and urban areas, as well as among Indigenous peoples.
The Kamloopa Powwow is a prime example of cultural traditions including songs and beliefs that represent intangible heritage. The Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market is another example relating to agricultural traditions and skills of producing local, organic food.
Often tangible and intangible elements combine, as reflected in monuments associated with a place. The cenotaphs to past wars are examples of intangible heritage. The sites of places where events occurred and are now only memories or stories are other examples.
Plaques and signs now help to explain that history that may otherwise be forgotten.
The Secwépemc relationship with the Jacko Lake area, known as Pipsell, represents knowledge of natural spaces. Pipsell is a spiritual and “cultural keystone place,” in close proximity to the Water World (the aquifer), the Sky World, a prayer tree, a hunting blind complex and associated grasslands and habitats of species at risk.
In this sense, Pipsell is a cultural landscape, an association of features.
Thus, heritage is a broad term that should have meaning to all people, as something passed down from the previous generation.
The answer to the question, “Where do you find heritage?” is, of course, everywhere.
Ken Favrholdt is a freelance writer, historical geographer and former curator/archivist of the Kamloops Museum & Archives.