Sek’maws (Sicamous), in Secwepemctsin language means “waist,” referring to the channel that connects Shuswap and Mara lakes. (File photo)

Splatsin elders share knowledge of local landmarks to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day

Knowledge passed down through generations highlight connection to the land

Splatsin “river drivers”once rode logs along the Setetkwa (Shuswap River), making sure the timber made it to the former Malpass Sawmill in Enderby for processing.

The river is one of the most important features in Splatsin territory, providing transportation, fishing, recreation and trade routes, writes Jean Brown, one of several Splatsin elders who have shared their knowledge about the history of local landmarks in celebration of National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21.

“In the 1950s, my dad, Willie Thomas, drove a logging truck for the Malpass Logging and Sawmill Company in Enderby,” writes Brown. “He drove from the Kingfisher logging site to his residence where the logs were dumped into the Shuswap River. At the time, Spallumcheen (Splatsin) residences had no physical addresses.”

Available to read on the Splatsin band website, this repository of knowledge focuses on several landmarks within Secwepmec Territory.

“What needs to be remembered was the difference in lifestyles, the untamed wilderness with no roads only trails. A person really needed to know a lot of names, places, how far from one point to the next to help with their water, food, travel, camping, habitat, livelihood and community safety,” prefaces Elder Julianna Alexander nuxnuxskaxa ctse’e7i7el (Woman Fawn).

Read more: Canoe Beach Cafe wants help identifying those responsible for vandalism

Read more: Sixty-six students from across Shuswap attend ceremony at Splatsin Centre

Elder Gerald Williams shares the history of Sek’maws (Sicamous) which, in Secwepemctsin language, means “waist,” referring to the channel that connects Shuswap and Mara lakes.

“Sek’maws is a very important village site and fishing site for the Splatsin people,” writes Williams. “Splatsin people were nomadic and made their yearly seasonal rounds, which included living in winter dwellings, called Kekulis. Sek’maws is part of the eastern border of the Splatsin Territory.”

Other landmarks discussed by elders include Swa7wilc (Shuswap Falls), St. Mary’s Church, Xatewtalc (Eagle Rock) and Quilakwa Mountain, the site of the last battle fought by the Splatsin against the Kootenays, shares Magca, Elder Marion Lee.

Kukpi7 (Chief) Wayne Christian explains the stories shared by elders, passed down through the generations, highlight the Splatsin’s connection to the land.

“Our oral traditions marks in the territory who we are as a people it is written in the land as the land represents the ashes of our ancestors,” said Christian in a June 19 release.

The First Nation has also organized a scavenger hunt to encourage the community to explore their territory, and a virtual collage-making session to celebrate their culture.

National Indigenous Peoples Day was introduced in 1996 to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

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