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Vernon to give Ogopogo copyright to First Nations

One of many Ogopogo creations that have nothing to do with the 'water spirit' of Syilx people.
March 22, 2021 - 3:32 PM

The City of Vernon has decided to relinquish the copyright of Ogopogo and transfer it to the Syilx First Nation.

The City's move comes just two weeks after council voted unanimously to grant permission to author Don Levers to use Ogopogo in his upcoming book which is a sequel to his 1985 publication, Ogopogo: The Misunderstood Sea Monster.

The transfer of the copyright was announced at Vernon council's meeting today, March 22, having been put forward and voted on at a closed council meeting earlier in the day.

It's unclear why councillors made a U-turn move to handover the copyright, and no public explanation was given as to why it was doing so.

However, last week asked Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming whether the City's ownership of the Ogopogo copyright was cultural appropriation?

At the time, the mayor refused to answer, only hinting the issue may be addressed at the upcoming meeting.

While the question of cultural appropriation was not mentioned during council's March 8 meeting when it granted Levers permission to use Ogopogo in his upcoming book, however, local first nations have previously been highly critical about the use of Ogopogo.

In 2016 the Okanagan Indian Band issued a scathing response to non-Indigenous author Dorothy Hawes' book "Ogopogo Odyssey." At the time, the author reacted saying she'd spoken to them prior to publication and was "shocked" by the Band's comments.

READ MORE: Is Vernon's copyright of Ogopogo cultural appropriation?

Recently, Westbank First Nation member Coralee Miller, speaking only as an individual Band member, was also critical of the copyright.

"One thing we need to get really clear is that today's iteration of Ogopogo... is not our water spirit, that thing has been so appropriated and far removed that it's not ours," Miller previously told "But where we take issue though is that it removes what our water spirit actually is to us."

Miller said for thousands of years, the Syilx people called it N’ha-a-itk and the water spirit carries deep spiritual meaning.

Last week, Levers had refused to discuss the cultural appropriation saying he wasn't prepared to get into a discussion about it. The author said his publisher, the Okanagan Publishing House, worked closely with the Okanagan Nation Alliance in the development of new material and all books carried a territory acknowledgement.

It's unclear how the change of ownership will affect Levers' new book which is due to be published next year.

It's also unclear who precisely the copyright is being transferred to, as the motion didn't state which Syilx First Nation it would go to.

The City of Vernon was given the copyright to Ogopogo in 1956 after it was copyrighted in 1952. The copyright appears to cover literary works although the City hasn't made a penny from royalties.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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