First Nations of the Nicola Valley

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Best Places to eat in Merritt – Kekuli Cafe

One of the best places to eat in Merritt – Kekuli Cafe

Kekuli Cafe, Merritt, BC

“Don’t panic….we have bannock”

One of the best places to eat in Merritt is Kekuli Cafe. “Don’t panic… we have Bannock” is the official slogan of Kekuli Cafe in Merritt BC. A wonderful place to enjoy a number of indigenous foods.

Before we dive into the amazing food I’d like to treat you to a look at the amazing skor bannock. You have got to try one.

skor bannock kekuli cafe merritt bc

Ohhh so yummy Skor bannock from Kekuli Cafe

How Kekuli was born?

It all started when for many years Sharon Bond wanted to own her own restaurant. Having a passion for cooking, baking and making people feel welcome. Sharon also had a passion for helping and pleasing people.

With all the other places to eat in Merritt Sharon knew she wanted to create a place like no other. Therefore that’s exactly what she did.

The Cafe

Sharon wanted a traditional cultural aboriginal ambiance. Low light pow wow music, aboriginal art, jewelry and of course aboriginal cuisine. She wanted a place where everyone would feel welcome and acknowledged. Along with her husband Darren Hogg they created one of the best places to eat in Merritt – Kekuli Cafe.

You definitely feel welcomed from the moment you walk in the doors of Kekuli Cafe.

The Name Kekuli.

It was quite interesting to find out where the name Kekuli came from. Sharon was looking for a unique name that would have an aboriginal flair to it. While reading a book by James Teit she came across the word “kekuli” which means house. Right away she knew that was the name and sent in paperwork to have it registered that day. 

The Thompson Indians used to live in these pit house( Kekuli’s)  hundreds of years ago.  These houses are build into the ground with logs, tule, dirt and grass. They were a safe, warm and happy place. That also protected the people from the elements during harsh winters.

You can still find Kekuli’s throughout the Thompson/Okanagan areas.

Kekuli Cafe pit house bannock

Photo Credit: Kekuli Cafe

Now however you can also find that warm inviting feeling of home in every Kekuli Café.

Franchise

The next step in Sharon and Darren’s endeavor was to start creating franchises. With the first being sold in December of 2018.

On Dec 1, 2018 Elijah Mack, just 22 years old, started living his dream by becoming the very first Kekuli franchise owner.  When asked what he wanted to be in 10 years he would say “I want to be my own boss.” Now Elijah is the proud owner of one of the best places to eat in Merritt.

Kekuli Cafe franchise owner

Photo credit Kekuli Cafe

Saskatoon ice tea is wonderful and refreshing treat any time of year. I love the flavor. Makes me want another one just thinking about it. My daughters favorite it the saskatoon berry smoothie.

Kekuli Cafe saskatoon ice tea

Saskatoon berry ice tea. It was so refreshing.

They have a variety of Bannock available and some amazing lunches. Fry bread tipi tacos, grilled Bannock flatbread, bannowiches, and a variety of salads. Check out their menu here.

Lunch

Oh my goodness, look at this amazing meal. So nice to have a place where everything is made fresh with fresh ingredients.

bannock blt

BLT Bannock with cran apple feta salad

BLT bannock fresh

BLT bannock at Kekuli

This BLT bannock was so amazing. The bannock was soft and warm, lettuce and tomato were fresh and no skimping on the bacon which was cooked to perfection. Must say this was the best BLT I have had in a very long time. Along with my BLT I chose to have the cranberry, apple and feta salad. It was so crisp and fresh. Accompanying the salad was a saskatoon vinaigrette dressing made in house.  Perfect for this salad. 

salad cranberry apple feta

Cranberry, apple and feta salad.

Desert I had a skor bannock. It was so fresh and I have to say better than any doughnut I have ever had. I was very tempted to buy a whole bunch of them to take home. 

Happy customers

While I was visiting there were a group from White Rock who stopped in for lunch. They were extremely thrilled with the service. One lady spoke of how Kurt, chief at Kekuli Cafe, resonated such happy vibes. They really appreciated it and would come back again for sure.

Look at these happy faces.

kekuli cafe great food eat merritt

Guests from Whiterock having lunch at Kekuli in Merritt, BC

 The Staff

When you walk into Kekuli Cafe you are greeted by the amazing staff.  They always have a smile on their faces and are ready to help you any way they can.

staff kekuli cafe

Amanda and Kurt staff at Kekuli Cafe

Kekuli Cafe isn’t just on of the best places to eat in Merritt. Friday nights they have open mic night where patrons can come and express themselves over the mic. They have had people sing, tell stories or say a poem. It’s a great way to spend some time with friends, enjoy the local talent and of course have some coffee and bannock.

So far I have tried the traditional, cinnamon sugar and skor. What kinds have you tried?

Art work

Something else you will find a Kekuli Cafe is some art from a local artist Wyatt Collins. Wyatt has such a flair for life and creates some wonderful artwork which is featured on the walls of Kekuli Cafe. There are also greeting cards with Wyatt’s artwork on them. 

local art merritt bc kekuli cafe

Art work by local artist Wyatt Collins

Other aboriginal products

There are a number of aboriginal items for sale at Kekuli Café. Some of them include Jams, jellies, coffee, pottery and cards. Stop in and have a look.

Kekuli Cafe Merritt BC

Some other offerings from Kekuli Cafe

If you are interested in having a blog showcasing your business please feel free to contact me at Experience Nicola Valley.  I would love to chat.

One of the best places to eat in Merritt – Kekuli Cafe

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First Nation Traditional Foods and Lodging in the Nicola Valley

 First Nation Traditional Foods in Merritt BC

Nicola Valley British Columbia Canada First Nation Traditional Foods & Lodging

“We harvest berries in the traditional Nicola Valley areas, as well as, fish and hunt using the old ways and new ways.”

What type of First Nation traditional foods and lodging in the Nicola Valley have helped my people endure the hot summers and cold winters? My people, through many generations, have experienced the changing seasons of the Nicola Valley for generations. The extremes of our Nicola Valley weather systems have taught us many survival skills and have played a large part in growing our appreciation of our lands. How did the First Nation people survive is a journey I would like to share with you? 

My Ancestors Were Nomadic During The Spring, Summer, And Fall Seasons

My ancestors used to live throughout the Nicola Valley territory traveling in groups. Living a nomadic life on the move provided my people the food necessary to last through the long cold winter months. Families would gather together in our seasonal villages and enjoy cooking over the open  fire, and celebrating our traditions.

First Nation Traditional Foods and Lodging

Saskatoon berries I picked

We lived on berries …

First Nation traditional foods in Merritt and throughout the Nicola Valley consisted of berries like Saskatoon berries, huckleberries, choke cherries and soap berries.

And We Hunted And Fished…

My ancestors’ diet wasn’t limited to just berries. No… we also fished and hunted wild game. During the fall seasons, my First Nation people would fish the mighty Fraser River. My people of our village would catch enough fish to survive the long winters. During the entire year, dependent on the weather, village hunters pursued wild game while hunting with bows.

 How Did My People Preserve Their Traditional Foods In Merritt BC?

traditional foods and lodging

Tule mat lodging

    In the early days of my people we often preserved our traditional foods by drying it on specially made mats of tule reeds. Tule reeds were gathered during the winter months on the shores of nearby lakes. Properly prepared these reeds were used for drying and preserving many of our First Nation foods. My people would also make larger mats from the tule reeds to double as floors in their makeshift lean-to’s during the warmer months.

How Did The Nlaka’pamux People Carry All This Food?

traditional foods and lodging

Cedar Root basket

As gathers and hunters we required transportation of our goods. Before the introduction of horses to our culture by the Spaniards, my people would use dogs to transport our goods. Because we lacked horses at that time my people would walk to and from,  here and there with their dogs. The dogs would be saddled with food packed in ceder root baskets.

Where Did My People Live Back Then?

traditional foods and lodging

Traditional lodges made out of cedar bark at Tuckkwiowhum interpretive village in Boston Bar

My First Nation ancestors used all sorts of materials from the land and waters. Because of our nomadic nature we were often in need of a portable shelter.  In the summer months we used temporary shelters because of the ease of transportation moving from location to location. These portable lean-to’s were created out of fir boughs and tule mats. If the location required a longer stay my people would build these lean-to’s with cedar bark. 

What About The Winter? 

First Nation pit houses

Interior model of a traditional Sheeiskin

Those summer temporary shelters wouldn’t hold up to the long winters of the Nicola Valley. During the winter season our shelters would take on new materials to create a new kind of shelter more durable to the winter conditions.  This new shelter covered in earth is called a pit-house. In our first Nation tongue Nlaka’pamuxcin it is called a “Sheeiskin”

Lots of thought and planning went into these structures. They would spend weeks looking for a proper location, then, when they found an acceptable spot, the community would work together and help build a pit house.

The sheeiskins were typically conical in shape with a hole in the center, which would let the campfire smoke escape through the hole.  The First Nation men would enter down a ladder through the same center hole. while the women would enter through a side entrance. Each First Nation pit house could usually hold up to 3-4 families.  There are locations in the Nicola Valley where you can still see the pit houses left behind from old sheeiskins, like at Monck Provincial Park.

Traditional Ways Are Still Around

Our First Nation traditional foods and lodging made it possible for my ancestors to survive the four seasons of the Nicola Valley. 

traditional foods and lodging

Chokecherries I picked

Today we still harvest berries in the traditional areas and fish and hunt using the old ways – as well as the new. Our respect for our elders has never wavered.  Elders are given first servings of any food we have gathered, and they are the keepers of our history often sharing their stories of our traditional and cultural ways.

A questions I have for you:

What is the traditional name of the First Peoples in my own area?   

Please feel free to contact me with your answers. I always love learning about new cultures. 

Or, if you also are Nlaka’pamux, share your stories with me!

See you later!  

(In many First Nation’s languages there is no word for “Good-bye”, as that word may be interpreted as I will never see that person again.)

 

 

 

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Shop Local in Merritt, BC – Vision Quest Optical and Gifts

Looking for Things To Do in the Nicola Valley? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC – Vision Quest Optical and Gifts

“Come Downtown and Buy Something!” 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Decorative BC designed drum bag

Jeanine Gustafson, owner of Vision Quest Optical and Gifts, encourages people to shop local in Merritt BC and support our businesses. That’s the message she would like to send out to the people who live in the Nicola Valley.

Vision Quest is an eclectic shop right on the corner of Quilchena and Voght Street, a corner everyone passes when they are downtown Merritt. Jeanine has a prime location on the main block, and fills her windows with a lively display all year round. If you pop in to see what’s there, you’ll find jewelry, gems, glass frames, toys, cards, books and local art.

On the Quest for Vision Services? Glass Frames? 

Jeanine is an optician with 30 years experience and her shop began as a way for her to offer optical services to the people in the community. You can find a room full of diverse frames for children, women, and men in Vision Quest shop, and Jeanine can help you find a frame you like and fulfill your prescription. She offers one more great choice in the community before a person decides to head off for Kamloops or to online services. Definitely worth checking out!

Looking for Local Art? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Bead Jewelry Galore

Over the ten years Jeanine has been providing options for vision care, she has expanded the offerings in her shop. Vision Quest is full of art, crafts, and jewelry created by about 40 local artists. 

All year round there are gifts, mementos, and useful items to choose from: cards by Marilyn Lytton, blankets from Amelia Washington, handmade soap from Les Keys, baskets and beading from Charles McKay. 

Jeanine herself creates feather earrings and other jewelry. There are painted tiles and jewelry by Pauline Ouellet, cards by photographer Heidi Koehler, beading by Ashala Harvie. And beautiful pained rocks by local artist Georgina Beatty! 

1st Nations Art 

Jeanine says the majority of the artists showing their work at Vision Quest are 1st Nations from the Nicola Valley, and some

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

1st Nations Art

from nearby regions like Lillooet. Her contacts also provide her with 1st Nations items designed in BC to satisfy her visitors from other provinces and countries. Look for beautiful designs on drum bags, a red lampshade, beaded earrings, medallions, baskets, cards…

The prices at Vision Quest are reasonable and range from about $5 to…more. I was very taken with a gorgeous across-the-shoulder bright turquoise suede bag, for just over $100. 

The local work in Jeanine’s lively, full shop is worth a leisurely search.

But I will admit that the jewelry, especially the gem jewelry, at Vision Quest often draws me through the welcoming doors on Quilchena Avenue.

Gems and Trinkets Galore!

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Gems and Jewelry

Jeanine’s windows are full of her jewelry, hanging or displayed in photo frames. And once you are in the shop, the jewelry is displayed in every cabinet, and in every nook and cranny. Amethysts, rose quartz, topaz, garnets, you name it. There are simple pendants to elaborately set jewelry, rings, earrings, bracelets in all shapes and colours.

There is also a diverse assortment of costume jewelry and a variety of pretty bags for storing your gems and trinkets.

What else? 

Jeanine carries local books from local authors when possible, fun toys for kids, guitar pics…

And a good supply of beading supplies: seed beads, gem beads, and others, and lots of supporting items like thread.

Business in Merritt 

I asked Jeanine what support she gets from the community. And her reply, “I am still open.” 

Shopping Local in Merritt, BC

Tiny decorative painted bird houses

In my opinion, with years of experience in owning a retail business myself, ten years is a success story!

Jeanine Gustafson is the owner of Vision Quest, renting her prime location from the local owners of the building. She has been open for ten years and is very familiar with what works downtown, and what doesn’t. She talks about how she is supported by the City of Merritt’s policies and attention. 

What Works? 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Hand made baby moccasins

Jeanine talks about other businesses and organizations which are supportive. For instance, she mentions how helpful the Open Door was to her. And comments on the support that Work BC has given to people she knows. 

“All sorts of fun people come in!” 

Jeanine enjoys the people who come in. She has regulars who pop in for tea and chats. She serves a steady flow of people coming in for optician services. And she welcomes all the visitors to town who make their way through her doors.

As we know, Merritt attracts people from all over the world. Jeanine often acts as an ambassador and tells people where to go in town, and what is happening locally. She has stories she shares with visitors, things I didn’t know about the history of some of the surrounding buildings and I’ve lived here for a lot longer….

What do you enjoy the most?

I asked Jeanine what she enjoys most about her business. After a moment’s thought, she describes the fun she has setting up

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Feather earrings by Jeanine Gustafson

the Christmas windows! Jeanine possesses the considerable Christmas village collection of the late Marguerite Kempin, a long time resident of the valley. It takes Jeanine a month to set it up, with no days off! And it will take a month to take down, ready for the next display! So it was great to hear that is a favourite part of her shop experiences.

I enjoy the Christmas window! And I know others who do too, some who take their grandchildren downtown to view it all.

Have you seen it? Whoops, it may be too late for this year. But the next display in Vision Quest’s display windows, on the corner of Voght Street and Quilchena Avenue will be there soon. Stroll by! Pop in!

Vision Quest is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 11am-5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

But Jeanine is open on Mondays in the summer months. She says Monday is a busy day in Merritt in the summer!

And how will she keep going in the slow months? Jeanine’s message to the locals: “Come downtown and buy something!”

Now that’s a positive message that supports all the shops in Merritt!

Thanks, Jeanine! Good visit! 

Shop local in Merritt BC

Blue suede bag

 

Contact Jeanine Gustafson at Vision Quest visionquestoptical@gmail.com 

Vision Quest Optical and Gifts Facebook

More on the arts and culture scene in the Nicola Valley

And if you want to see more local art visit our local Arts Gallery at the heritage Courthouse on Nicola Avenue. 

And visit our Nicola Valley Arts Council site, to see what’s happening in the arts in our valley.

The NVCAC is also on Facebook. 

And check out my Creative Community Facebook page.

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Shopping at Vision Quest

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