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Pandemic Plunge: Lower Kootenay Band staff brave frigid river waters

For many Indigenous communities, dipping in icy waters is a historic cleansing ritual

While many people have huddled up inside to hibernate until spring, the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) has braved the icy shallows of the Kootenay River.

On Jan. 27, staff members of the LKB council and administration, Yaqan Nukiy School, and the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services (KKCFS) participated in the “Pandemic Polar Plunge” and dipped into the river. It was a friendly competition to see who could best handle the freeze.

“Historically, dipping into frigid waters was a common ceremony practice amongst many indigenous communities,” said Nasukin Jason Louie of the LKB.

“Going into a river or lake during the winter months was a cleansing of the mind, body, and spirit.”

The LKB team consisted of Nasukin Louie, LKB Councillor Cherie Luke, LKB Director Heather Suttie, LKB Registered Nurse Gwen Grieves, Yaqan Nukiy School Principal Jenessa Lowen, and Yaqan Nukiy School Ktunaxa Language Teacher Jenny Jacobs.

The KKCFS team included Executive Director Colin Sinclair, KKCFS staff members Tanya Francis, Tasha Olderness, Duncan Chalmers, and Bronwen Poultney.

“The last two years of this pandemic has been difficult on everyone,” said Louie.

“However, it has been extremely trying and stressful for those in leadership and those on the front lines. The waters were cold but I now feel light. I will enjoy this new found peace for as long as it lasts.”

The LKB expressed their thanks to Creston Fire Rescue, RCMP Indigenous Liaison Monty Webb, the LKB maintenance crew, and the small cheering section who helped to make it a great day.

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Kelsey Yates

About the Author: Kelsey Yates

Kelsey Yates has had a lifelong passion for newspapers and storytelling. Originally from Alberta, she graduated from SAIT Polytechnic's journalism program in 2016.
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