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The Secwepemc – (The People)

Log Rolling, May 24, circa 1928 to 1936, Joe Christian (on log to left back to picture) , Adrian Alexander, on log to right

Raising Children the Secwepemc Way

Memories of an Elder

The Old Days

George Manuel

Confederated Traditional Okanagan Shuswap Nations Declaration 1986

Laurier Memorial

The Secwepemc have lived on their lands for thousands of years. Archeologist reports date evidence of their existence over 10,000 years. However, the Secwepemc Elders say the people have lived on their lands since the time of creation. The Secwepemc believe the world always existed.

According to a story retold by James Teit, in the beginning, the earth was inhabited by people who had both human and animal characteristics. Many other mythical creatures existed during this time. Many animals, birds, and fish did not exist. The earth was troubled by great winds, fires, and floods.

Old One sent Coyote to travel the earth and make things better for the people. Coyote had magical powers, had great knowledge, and was very cunning. He is known inSecwepemc stories as The Trickster. Coyote was also selfish, lazy, and vain and played many foolish and bad tricks on people and animals. Coyote traveled the Earth for a long time and completed much work. He did much good work, such putting salmon in the rivers and creating the seasons. Seklep also taught the people many skills that they would need to survive on the land. He brought the seasons, brought salmon. Coyote taught many lessons on how to behave properly by using himself as an example. Today the markers of Coyote remain to remind the Secwepemc of proper behavior.

When Coyote left the Earth, he disappeared and no one knows where he went. Some say he went to toward the East and will return some day when he is needed.

Old One, Chief of the Ancient World, along with other transformers finished the work of Coyote. Old One was usually in the form of an old man, but sometimes changed his appearance. He was very powerful and never acted foolish like Coyote. He made many transformations, such as flattening the land in some places and raised it in others and making the lakes. Old One introduced trout into the lakes and created many new plants. He created many animals and told them to multiply. Old One told the people to be respectful of the animals, to use them properly, and not make them angry.

During this time, the people were poor and foolish and he taught them how to catch and prepare food and make weapons and implements. When he was finished, he transformed the bad people into animals, birds, fish, and rocks.

Old One and Sek’lep made the world right for the Secwepemc and instructed them of their responsibilities to forever take care of the earth.

The Secwepemc, traditionally, were intimately connected with the Natural World and maintained a mutual reciprocal responsibility and respect with all inhabitants of the environment. Through this relationship, they were able to survive and flourish in harsh and extreme environments. Through their relationship to, and direct participation in the Natural World, the Secwepemc received gifts of information which assisted in their survival. They believe that everything- animals, plants, rocks, fire, air, and water have a soul which they retained when they were people during the mythological age. The Secwepemc believe that everything in the Natural World can speak and provide important messages to them.

Secwepemc knowledge, spirituality, land stewardship, sensitive and sustainable land use have enabled them to live on their lands for centuries without devastating biodiversity and ecosystem. From their intimate knowledge of the land and varied ecosystems, they practiced resource use and caretaking regimes which made relatively light demands of the local resources. The Secwepemc preserved and maintained areas by protecting them as sacred. They developed land use laws and customs which ensured preservation of the land and biodiversity.

Although, today, the Secwepemc are dispossessed of their traditional territories and much of their culture is destroyed, they maintain much of their former values and beliefs. They continue to practice certain aspects of their way of life on the land. The Secwepemc continue to take care of the animals, birds, and plant foods and medicines harvested from their traditional territories

 

 

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