After a tough year, Okanagan Indian Band members had an unforgettable Halloween


On October 31, Erica Clarke put her children in their princess and sheep costumes for Halloween. But, instead of going door to door to cheat or feast, they were doing something different this year. They were going to a trunk or treat event. Clarke hosted the event in partnership with the Okanagan Indian Band Health and Welfare Team (OKIB). Community members were invited to drive to decorate their cars and serve candy in their trunks.

“We’ve all had a really tough year,” says Clarke. “It’s just an opportunity to get us all together because especially in our culture, being together is part of our healing and not having that is really hard.”

Many OKIB members were evacuated over the summer due to the White Rock Lake wildfire, which destroyed homes and businesses in the community.

The event was an important part of remembering the power of community unity, says Clarke.

“Everything that is happening in the community, there hasn’t been much for our young people. So I thought it was really important to give something back, ”says Clarke.

The community comes together

Clarke was motivated to organize an event so that young people could come together and bond, she says. That’s why she applied and received a grant from the Jays Care Foundation. The OKIB Health and Wellness team also secured sponsorship for the event through Bird Construction.

“The original intention was to do a big community event in the summer, however, with the wildfires and everything, it just kept getting pushed back,” she says.

Instead, Clarke invested the funds in the Halloween event. She organized this event while working full time and taking care of her family.

After a year of many losses due to fires, COVID-19 and the discovery of 215 unmarked children’s graves, the community had to come together in an effort to rise up, Clarke says.

Isabel Belyk, also an OKIB member who was born and raised in the community, woke her little ones from a nap to head for the door that day.

Although Belyk was dressed as a skeleton for the evening’s event, she was actually a Supermom dressing her two little dragons in the back of her vehicle where she would soon set up her trunk for the occasion.

“Being at this event was bittersweet like most events are nowadays,” she says. “The past year has been strange, difficult and heartbreaking.

It’s strange that my children are growing up in a completely different world from our parents. “

But, she adds, it was nice to see so many people. “There was food and hot chocolate provided, there were kids everywhere, it was great,” she says.

About a hundred people took part and many sweets were distributed.

Clarke and Belyk both share that as the holiday season draws near, it’s important to stay hopeful and make sure the kids always feel safe and supported in the year ahead.

“I just hope we can keep coming together and, you know, find those times when we can all come together,” Clarke said. Belyk hopes for much the same.

“Losing loved ones to COVID is heartbreaking,” Belyk says.

“There is fear and uncertainty in our present and our future. We are trying to do our part to protect those who are left with us. Hopefully next year starts to look like life as we know it. We would like to meet again without fear of carrying a deadly disease into the community or into our homes. “

In the meantime, Clarke is already actively preparing for winter. Thanks to the grant from the Blue Jays Cares Foundation that she received, she will also prepare 30 baskets for families in her community who will need them this year.

She says she is doing this for the sake of her people, and simply “to help”.

Kelsie Kilawna, reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative, The Discourse


Leave A Reply