History of the Land
Canada's only Exhibit of First Contact
Between the Original Peoples and First European Settlers
The Okanagan is unusual in that it wasn't settled by Europeans until the turn of the century. In many parts of Canada immigrants had come with very little except their hands, skills and a determination to make a new life in a new land, and while the Okanagan had its share of these determined but poor settlers, it also had an astonishing number of people arriving with money and goods that moved into well-built and often luxurious homes. These settlers were well educated, and took books, fine furnishings, and china tea sets for granted.
Among these settlers was Henry Cecil Mallam. Born in England, he came to Canada in 1903. His father, a doctor, had given his son a good education, then sent him out to seek his fortune in "the Colonies". In 1904 he bought property in Okanagan Mission Kelowna from Gus Anderson who had preempted it in the 1800's. On the land was a fine new two story, hand hewn log house built in 1897. Romance was waiting for Henry in the new world. He met and married Giffortina Thomson, daughter of Gifford R. Thomson. He and his bride moved into this substantial home which was sited near a spring. The spring ran year round and still does. The Mallams were active in the community and like many settlers, Henry Mallam joined the army and served in World War I.
The Mallam House was a busy place. With doctors spread scarcely over the area, the women of the Mallam family were "on call" for midwife duties. Peter Mallam, a descendant of the Mallam family recalls "there always seemed to be babies in the house". Obviously young mothers-to-be knew to come to this house, which was a haven during this anxious time.
In the gully next to the Mallam house is the Makwala Kekuli. This is a replica of the sacred earth house used by the indigenous peoples for centuries as their winter home. The fire in the centre kept the earth covered dome warm and many friends and family were able to enjoy sleeping and cooking and storey telling. The fire has always been considered sacred as it is the passageway to those on the other side, the ancestors. This tradition is now graciously shared by the West Bank First Nation to all, and may be the first time European peoples have the opportunity to behold this tradition and profound experience.
The First Nation and Summerhill have agreed to three rules in reverence for the ancestors:
- No alcohol or drugs in or near the Kekuli
- All entering must know the sacredness and observe no idle talk while in the “womb”
- No ceremony without the permission of The West Bank First Nation
The Kekuli was dedicated to the memory of it’s major builder, Makwala Derrickson Hall (18) who was killed by the bull in the rodeo ring shortly after he and his family and friends finished rebuilding (the original replica of a Kekuli was built by Makwala' s father, Ron Hall in 1996) Kekuli in July 2010.
The Makwala Kekuli and the adjacent Mallam Cabin are Canada’s only First Contact Exhibit. The cabin is restored and furnished in it’s original 1800’s condition and is open for touring in small groups of up to ten with no reservation required.
*Re-creation of the Mallam House interior by Ursula Surtees, retired director of the Kelowna Museum.