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Stseptekwle – Stories of the Secwepemc


Tule house, used as summer dwelling, often put up in summer camps

Stories were told throughout the long winter nights. Certain individuals knew the full version of some of the stories. Stories contained mythical creatures who inhabited the land of the Secwepemc. The creatures were sometimes human and sometimes animal. Creatures such as the water monster, cannibal giant, and the little people were important characters in the stories. There were many stories told of Old One, Chief of the Ancient World, who traveled over the land and created and transformed the world for the Secwepemc. He, along with Coyote (Seklep), taught the Secwepemc many things and provided what they needed. Old One made the lakes, mountains, rain, and snow. When he completed his work, he left and went to the Land of the Dead and now lives in the Spirit Land where he sometimes sends messages to the people.

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.

Coyote and Grizzly Bear Make the Seasons and Night and Day

Wolf and Wolverine

Story of Hunger - Famine

Wala and the Moon

Coyote and the Salmon


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