RCMP and Land Based Learning


2023-03-09 14:01 PST

In Kelowna the journey of learning can take on many forms and for the eight middle schools in the City, there is one program that’s historic significance is invaluable.

The Land-Based Learning program is the passing on of knowledge from family, Elders and knowledge keepers. It means living in harmony with the environment, respecting animals and taking only what you need. This learning is the way knowledge is transferred from one generation to the next.

Kevin Kaiser (Stellat’en First Nation member) and Kyla Shields (Westbank First Nation member) are in their second year in leading this program which enrolls over 100 middle school students all who identify as Indigenous. The program is very hands on getting students interested in their heritage and history which helps pass the knowledge to this new generation of learners.

The program is a fantastic mixture of learning both in and out of the classroom. When in the traditional school setting the students attend Okanagan Mission School (OKM) but when outside of the classroom students have the opportunity to learn about the land throughout the valley. The Land-Based program partnered with Summerhill Winery to have access to the Pit-House and garden in order to give the students a place to learn as well as understand their heritage.

Kelowna RCMP Media Relations Officer Constable Mike Della-Paolera, who was a School District’s Resource Officer, was tasked with creating a new concept for an updated Challenge Coin. He immediately turned to Kevin and Kyla with Land-Based Learning.

The Challenge Coin’s history dates back to the first World War when a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps gave his fellow pilots a small solid-bronze medallion with the squadron’s insignia. The pilots would fly with the medallions in their pockets for safekeeping. During a mission over Germany one of the pilots was forced to land and was captured. He would eventually escape, wearing German clothes making his way through no-man’s land until he came upon a French patrol. Without any identification he was captured again and was about to be executed as a German until the medallion was discovered and recognized as American, which saved his life. The Challenge Coin was born.

Eventually the coins became more than just a military tradition and extended to the police.

Today an RCMP Challenge Coin is usually about the size of a silver dollar, one side of the coin most commonly has the RCMP emblem while the other side can represent the community that Officers serve in or special unit they are a part of. These coins are then exchanged between officers world-wide much like a trading card. They are used as gifts of thanks or other special recognition to show mutual respect between members of police services around the globe.

There is no better symbol for the newest Kelowna RCMP Challenge Coin then having representation from the Indigenous Youth and the Syilx People.

Kevin and Kyla jumped at the opportunity when Cst. Della-Paolera approached them, It was amazing when he came and spoke to us, said Kevin. We try to get the community involved as much as possible and partnering anytime with the RCMP is a win.

They decided to use the project as another learning tool to help the students understand their incredible heritage roots, It was a journey, continued Kevin. The only rule they had was that their design had to be local and be a representation of the Okanagan. Their design didn’t necessarily need to have an indigenous theme or even a background, but of course a lot of the things we do already have an indigenous theme and we talk about our interconnectedness for the land. A lot of their designs were based on the learning that we were doing and at the time Mike came to us it was the season of salmon so that was reflected in their submissions. I was blown away by their talent and their designs, they really are an amazing group of students.

The design process took about two months as students were continuously building upon their ideas. Even after they submitted their final piece, they were still engaged and coming up with ideas for another entry.

It has been an incredible experience working with the students, says Della-Paolera. I was completely caught off guard with the level of talent and creativity of the submissions. I was hoping we would get five or six students participate, but what was submitted was inspiring.

Incredibly over 100 submissions were made to the RCMP committee, all them unique in their own way. The committee then had the difficult task of sifting through them all to come up with the final 10.

They are now in the hands of Shields who will take some of the pieces from each of the 10 finalists to create one final piece that will be used on the new Challenge Coin.

Once the coins are printed each of the students enrolled in the Land-Based Learning program will receive one as an appreciation of their hard work and contributions. A special presentation will also be made to the entire class.

The RCMP will update this story once the Challenge Coin has been finalized.

 A collection of six coins on a table

Released by

Ryan Sencar

Kelowna RCMP
1190 Richter St, Kelowna, British Columbia V1Y 6V7

Email: bcrcmp-grcencb@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

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