The unveiling of the Sxwesméllp Landmark at Marine Peace Park in Salmon Arm brought a solid and tangible component to reconciliation.
Smiles and a smattering of tears accompanied the celebrations and ceremony on June 25, when the large rose-granite sculpture described as Coyote Rock, which stands circled by a metalwork sculpture depicting soopalallie berry bushes and salmon, was unveiled.
Secwépemc artists Rod Tomma and his son Tilkotmes were the main carvers of Coyote Rock, while Rod’s cousin Ron helped them finish off the sculpture. Eric Kutschker, a settler artist, did the metalwork porti0n of the Landmark.
Both Rod Tomma and Kutschker spoke about the Landmark, Tomma explaining the many details included in Coyote Rock from children in residential schools to the eagles at the top.
In speaking about the metalwork, which follows after the rock, just as settlers on the land followed Indigenous people, Kutschker noted mysteriously that a fish which isn’t a salmon is included.
Although Trailhead markers have already been positioned throughout the area, this was the first Landmark sculpture in the Secwépemc Landmarks Project.
Adams Lake councillor Shelley Witzky, who took the lead on the project, said it began in 2018.
Elders had pointed out that when they travelled through the Secwépemc Nation from Chase to Golden while engaged with a highways project, there was no signage that showed a traveller they were within Secwépemc traditional territory.
In discussions with contributor Sutra Brett, the idea of having viewing portals, just as the Swiss do for various mountains in the Alps, was born and incorporated in the Landmark. The sign near the Landmark has a QR code so visitors can hear the name pronunciations by Secwépemc language speakers.
Witzky pointed out that the Secwepemc Lakes Elders Advisory Committee was instrumental in guiding and providing the information about the Landmarks.
The ‘Sxwesméllp’ in Sxwesméllp Landmark is also known as Switsmalph or Switzmalph.
It means ‘soopolallie bush’ in the Secwépemc language (Secwepemctsin) and refers to the area around the confluence of the Salmon River and Shuswap Lake.
The celebrations Saturday included many speakers and many gifts for the many people who contributed to the project. Among those invited to speak were Adams Lake Kukpi7 (chief) Lynn Kenoras-Duck Chief, Neskonlith Kukpi7 Judy Wilson and Little Shuswap Lake Kukpi7 James Tomma. Representing Splatsin was Elder Marion Lee.
Witzky said Adams Lake was the project lead and partner. Kukpi7 Kenoras-Duck Chief said it was a wonderful day, being able to celebrate the beautiful landmark.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt joy and appreciation for Councillor Shelley for being one of the leaders with respect to this landmark, and of course to her team and all the neighbouring communities, allies and friends.”
She also thanked the “wonderful artists.”
Thanks from Witzky kept coming and included all the sponsors, the municipal, provincial and federal politicians, the carvers, the Elders and the youth (Micky Tomma, Mackenzie Creasser, Devin Doss), the Shuswap Trail Alliance and more.
Three more Landmarks are currently planned for the region, one at R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum, one at Little Mountain and one in Chase.
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