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Okanagan First Nations

Training of the Children


The elders of the family had care of the training of the children.  Fathers, uncles, and grandfathers for the boys; grandmothers, mother and aunts for the girls.  Children were not often whipped by their parents, but during the winter they were often spanked by the guardians, which was thought to make them both hardy and good.

 

The important time in the boy’s life was the adolescent stage.  He washed and bathed in running water least once a day.  He went through a long period of training and took sweat baths to get his guardian spirit.  He trained to become a sure shot, to be good at games and hunting.  Every boy sought to acquire a guardian spirit.  This called for great concentration.  On no account were they to get angry or disappointed but had to keep calm and cool until the vision appeared.  With the guardian spirit there usually came a song.  The sun was thought to be the most powerful, but it was very hard to attain.  Next to it came thunder, eagle, hawk, and owl.  The guardian spirit usually appeared in a dream when the boy was asleep.  He might say, “I am the coyote,” or “I am the grizzly bear that runs.”  Some of the rock paintings that can be seen today are reputed to be records of these dreams.

 

Boys would run up steep hills and rocky points to develop leg muscles.  To strengthen the arms and back and train the eye, they threw, lifted and carried heavy rocks.  They practiced shooting with bow and arrow and took part in all kinds of races and games to make their eyes and ears keen.  The sweat baths were not only used for improving health and as a tonic, but also as a purifying spiritual power.  Hunters and warriors would pray for success in war, hunting, and gambling.  It also helped to remove the human smell that frightened the wild animals away.

vokanagan1The girls washed and bathed every day and prayed to Day Dawn every morning.  While bathing they often used fir boughs for rubbing their bodies.  They helped in the teachings of the younger children and in the digging of roots, cleaning and cutting of fish and deer meat.  They gathered berries, helped with the cooking, made dresses and mended moccasins.  Their marriages were by betrothal, the placing down of gifts and dance.