Stseptekwle – Stories of the Secwepemc
Seklep (Coyote) was also an important figure in Secwepemc stories. He was a helper to the people as well as a trickster. He could transform himself into anything he wanted. He could die and come back to life. He used his transformations to help and to trick the people. Coyote often used himself as an example of how to behave properly. He helped the people realize the consequences of improper behavior.
Through the stories, Coyote taught the people many lessons and left markers on the land to remind them of the lessons. On the banks of South Thompson River on the Neskonlith reserve are two rocks, one large and one small, which are Coyote and his son transformed into rocks. Coyote and his son were watching naked girls across the river swimming and had wicked thoughts about them. They were changed into rocks and are still there today. When one sees the rocks, he thinks of Coyote and is reminded to behave properly.
The Elders tell the story of Coyote who insisted on copying Spider by climbing up a tree and trying to spin a web like Spider. Coyote got stuck in the tree and his fur is now wile – black tree moss. This story teaches how one should behave properly – not to be foolish and try to be like other people. It also provides an explanation of how black tree moss became a food for the Secwepemc.
Secwepemc storytellers were able to enthrall the listeners and impress upon them the reality of the story. Stories contained emotions, feelings, and vivid images which make them easier to remember. When one encountered the giant rat who ate bad children in the stories, one was certain to try and display good behavior for fear of being captured and eaten by the giant rat.Secwepemc stories transmit linguistic, cultural, spiritual, and historical knowledge. This knowledge included moral and practical lessons, social values, proper behavior, spiritual teachings, and explanations for natural phenomenon. The stories also contained Secwepemc identities and explained the relationship between the land and the people. The stories teach that everything in the world has a purpose and that the Secwepemc must respect it. The stories also provided entertainment.
The stories were constantly repeated and instilled in the living memories of successive generations so they were not forgotten. In this way, important teachings were successfully passed on to the next generation.